Experimental CPRA Request To San Francisco County Supervisor Aaron Peskin For Emails To/From Union Square BID Director Karin Flood On A Subject Found In Her Lobbying Disclosure Demonstrate The Utility Of Detailed Contact Reporting By Registered Lobbyists

One of the major issues in the currently ongoing process of revising this City’s Municipal Lobbying Ordinance has to do with the level of detail about their contacts with City officials that lobbyists should be required to disclose. Currently they don’t have to disclose much, but there’s a proposal on the table to require them to disclose each contact with a City official including which issue was discussed.

Naturally, the lobbyists hate this idea. Their big argument against it, which has, to their everlasting shame, been echoed by a number of Ethics Commissioners, is that this level of disclosure would require so much work that the entire lobbying industry in Los Angeles would be driven into bankruptcy. This, of course, is ridiculous, not least because, just for instance, our silicon-addled redheaded step-cousins up North in the City and County of San Francisco require precisely this information on their disclosure forms without, obviously, having driven the industry into the ground. It’s fascinating to look at these disclosures, by the way. Check out San Francisco’s lobbyist directory for links to all of it.1

And one of the major arguments in favor of requiring lobbyists to disclose each contact with a City official and the issue discussed is that it would facilitate requesting records of the City via the California Public Records Act, and thus promote transparency. This is a great argument in the abstract, but concrete arguments are always more persuasive.2 Oh, I forgot to mention it, but in San Francisco, BID staffers register as lobbyists, unlike in Los Angeles.3 So, in keeping with the blog’s BID theme, I thought I’d try out my little test on Karin Flood, executive directrix of San Francisco’s Union Square BID. Turn the page to find out what happened!
Continue reading Experimental CPRA Request To San Francisco County Supervisor Aaron Peskin For Emails To/From Union Square BID Director Karin Flood On A Subject Found In Her Lobbying Disclosure Demonstrate The Utility Of Detailed Contact Reporting By Registered Lobbyists

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Who Is In Charge Of The Palos Verdes Estates Police Department? Jeff Kepley Is Definitely Out, But Other Than That No One At The City Is Talking, At Least They’re Not Talking To Judge James Otero

For background take a look at this excellent article from the Times on this lawsuit.ames Also see here to download all pleadings in this case.

A very peculiar pleading in this most peculiar of cases hit PACER last night, in . It seems that PVE police chief Jeff Kepley retired at some point recently. Since he’s being sued in his official capacity rather than his personal capacity, it appears that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(d) requires that Jeff Kepley be dropped from the suit and his successor named instead:

Public Officers; Death or Separation from Office. An action does not abate when a public officer who is a party in an official capacity dies, resigns, or otherwise ceases to hold office while the action is pending. The officer’s successor is automatically substituted as a party. Later proceedings should be in the substituted party’s name, but any misnomer not affecting the parties’ substantial rights must be disregarded. The court may order substitution at any time, but the absence of such an order does not affect the substitution.

So, very reasonably, it seems, plaintiffs’ attorney Kurt Franklin filed a Suggestion to the Court that the acting Chief, who seems to be Mark Velez at this point, be substituted in.1 This seems to be fairly inconsequential in that the rule seems to say that the substitution happens irrespective of whether anyone acknowledges it, but it also seems like the kind of thing one would want to tell the court about. If it comes up later and one knew about it and didn’t tell the court, how weird is that going to look?

Not that the City of PVE is worried about such niceties. As with everything to do with the City’s involvement in this case, the events leading up to this filing have an air of shady incompetence, evasion, and deception. It hasn’t yet been proven that this weirdo little City on a Hill has anything to hide, but they surely do act as if they do. So what’s one more little item like not telling the court that the freaking chief of police retired?

As always there’s a transcription after the break, as well as a timeline of key events.
Continue reading Who Is In Charge Of The Palos Verdes Estates Police Department? Jeff Kepley Is Definitely Out, But Other Than That No One At The City Is Talking, At Least They’re Not Talking To Judge James Otero

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More Scenes From The First Interested Persons’ Meeting — Über-Lobbyist Bill Delvac Reveals That His Clients Tactically Report Their Opponents In The Land Use Wars To The Ethics Commission As Unregistered Lobbyists But No Action Is Ever Taken — Heather Holt Corrects Him With Provocative Obliquity: “Perhaps No Public Action,” Quoth She

Oh dear, CPRA material from various BIDs, fascinating stuff, is pouring in as usual and just piling up on my metaphorical desk while I write post after post after post about the Ethics Commission‘s ongoing effort to revise the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. Well, it can’t be helped, because the MLO is essential.1 Part of the process is holding a bunch of meetings to seek input, the first of which took place last Thursday.2 I’ve also posted my take on the various proposals. I’ll get to the BID stuff as soon as possible, friends, but meanwhile, here’s yet another MLO post.3

If you’ve been following the conversation you’ll know that the lobbyists opposing the proposed revisions have argued consistently that the City doesn’t need more regulations imposed on lobbyists who, according to them anyway, desperately want to follow the law but instead needs to register the herds of unregistered and unregulated lobbyists swarming around City Hall.4

They’re not wrong that there are far, far too many unregistered lobbyists. Turning these people in to the Ethics Commission is one of the main purposes of this blog and I have, uncharacteristically, to agree with the registered lobbyists that there are an awful lot of unregistered lobbyists haunting 200 N. Spring Street and that the ease with which they can be detected is astonishing.5

Where they are wrong is in their claim that there’s some kind of dichotomy between registering the unregistered and revising the laws. Mostly the people pushing this idea, that somehow revising the law and registering the unregistered are mutually exclusive, seem to be doing it only to distract everyone’s attention from how badly the present law needs revision and, possibly, how badly their subterranean activities might be exposed were the law to be revised.

At least that’s how it sounded in last week’s meeting when John Howland, late of the CCALA but more recently employed by Arnie Berghoff and Associates, broke out with the same old routine, of which I’ll spare you a transcription, because it’s essentially content-free. However, at that same meeting supervillainesque land use attorney Bill Delvac also had quite a lot to say, most of which, in contrast to the self-serving contributions of his fellow flacks in the so-called regulated community, was quite interesting.

On the subject of unregistered lobbyists, for instance, Bill Delvac asserted that not only were there bunches of them, but that many of the lawyers who professionally oppose development projects are engaged in lobbying, and that essentially none of them are registered. He also, surprisingly to me, revealed that many of his clients had reported such lawyers to the Ethics Commission but that no action had been taken. Heather Holt, executive director of the Commission, corrected him, saying “perhaps no public action.”

And turn the page for some comments on the more technical parts of what Bill Delvac had to say, including the only colorable argument I’ve ever heard against a compensation-based definition as the main criterion for registration as a lobbyist.6 There is also, as usual, a transcription of all relevant remarks.
Continue reading More Scenes From The First Interested Persons’ Meeting — Über-Lobbyist Bill Delvac Reveals That His Clients Tactically Report Their Opponents In The Land Use Wars To The Ethics Commission As Unregistered Lobbyists But No Action Is Ever Taken — Heather Holt Corrects Him With Provocative Obliquity: “Perhaps No Public Action,” Quoth She

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My Letter To The Ethics Commission On Proposed Revisions To The Municipal Lobbying Ordinance

As you may already know, the City Ethics Commission is in the process of proposing revisions to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. The full proposal is here. They’ve been holding meetings to solicit input and, given the anti-regulatory stance adopted by a significant number of the Commissioners recently, it’s essential that right-minded people get their comments in to ethics.policy@lacity.org soonest.

I’ve been working on a letter for a few weeks now,1 and yesterday I finally finished it. You can get a copy of the PDF or read a transcription after the break. Please feel free to use any part of this to guide or inspire your own letters, which, as I said, I really hope you will send in as soon as possible.

The next Commission meeting is on October 17, and I’m told by staff that all comments received by a few days before then will be distributed to the Commissioners. If you can get your comments in pretty soon, though, they’ll also be discussed by staff prior to finalizing the proposals, which may be a good thing.
Continue reading My Letter To The Ethics Commission On Proposed Revisions To The Municipal Lobbying Ordinance

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Video Of First Interested Persons Meeting Now Available — See John Howland And Bill Delvac Discuss Whether Neighborhood Council Assent Is Necessary For Development Projects (TL,DR: Yes). This Revelation Makes BID Control Of DLANC Seem Even More Unsavory Than It Already Did

Yesterday afternoon the Ethics Commission held the first in a series of three meetings to gather even more input from interested parties concerning proposed revisions to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. I recorded the whole thing for posterity and you can watch it here:

I’ll be commenting on this and the next meeting1 from time to time, and today I just want to point out an interesting response from seasoned Los Angeles lobbyists John Howland and Bill Delvac2 to an interesting question from Ethics Commission ED Heather Holt. One of the proposals on the table is a requirement that lobbyists report attempts to influence neighborhood councils in addition to the other City agencies they’re already required to disclose information about. In the context of this discussion, Holt asked the lobbyists:

Just out of curiosity, for development projects, is there a general sense that you need a neighborhood council buy-in for it to go anywhere?

In response to this, über-düber lobbyist John Howland smirked and emitted an inarticulate snort, seemingly in disbelief that the boss of the Ethics Commission could ask such a silly question, before saying “yes.” This response was echoed by Bill Delvac, with Howland interjecting the occasional assent:

BD: We’re happy when we get to neutral.
JH: Yeah. Well, yeah.
BD:
[Unintelligible] … the Charter and the Code, they’re really not binding. But it matters more to some Councilmen [sic] than it does to others and often [unintelligible] you wanna get their support. I wouldn’t have written the Charter that way, but …

This interchange certainly supports the Ethics Commission’s proposal to subject lobbying directed at neighborhood councils to disclosure, and, interestingly, there didn’t seem to be any actual opposition to this proposal from the lobbyists. So maybe, no matter what gets compromised out of the rest of the proposals, this one will make it through the gauntlet, which is a good thing.3

And turn the page for a discussion of some potential implications, possibly as-yet unconsidered, of this proposal having to do with the fact that, probably uniquely among NCs, the DLANC has a ton of BID staffers on its board of directors.
Continue reading Video Of First Interested Persons Meeting Now Available — See John Howland And Bill Delvac Discuss Whether Neighborhood Council Assent Is Necessary For Development Projects (TL,DR: Yes). This Revelation Makes BID Control Of DLANC Seem Even More Unsavory Than It Already Did

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Judge Otero Rules That No Hearing Is Necessary On City Of LA’s Motion To Clarify Preliminary Injunction In Mitchell Case, Cancels Hearing Scheduled For Monday September 11

See Gale Holland’s excellent story in the Times on Mitchell v. LA as well as our other stories on the subject for the background to this post. See here to download most of the papers filed in the case.

Recall that in May 2016 the City of Los Angeles filed a motion asking Judge James Otero to clarify his preliminary injunction against enforcement of the abhorrent LAMC §56.11; within the boundaries of Skid Row. Recently plaintiffs’ attorney Carol Sobel filed a scathing opposition to the City’s motion and a hearing was set for Monday, September 11.

Well, just yesterday Judge James Otero ruled that he didn’t need a hearing in order to decide on the motion and thereby cancelled it. This was published on PACER as one of those text-only notices, no PDF associated, and you can read what there is of it after the break.
Continue reading Judge Otero Rules That No Hearing Is Necessary On City Of LA’s Motion To Clarify Preliminary Injunction In Mitchell Case, Cancels Hearing Scheduled For Monday September 11

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How Kerry Freaking Morrison And A Bunch Of Other Bad BIDdies Helped Gut AB-1479, An Essential Improvement To The California Public Records Act, And It Seems, If You Believe Them (Although Why Would You, Really?), To Be All My Freaking Fault For Being So Freaking Mean To Them On The Freaking Internet And Being “Intent On Bringing [Their Freaking] Organization To Its [Freaking] Demise”!

In February 2017, California State Assemblymember Rob Bonta of Oakland introduced AB-1479, which would have amended the California Public Records Act to allow judges to assess civil penalties of between $1,000 and $5,000 to punish flagrant CPRA violations. The bill sailed through the Assembly and almost made it through the Senate until a shitstorm of opposition, including from many Los Angeles BIDs, some of whom cited this blog as part of their parade of horribles, hired high-powered lobbyists Gonzalez, Hunter, Quintana, & Cruz and thereby sank the most important part of the bill, leaving only a tragic and fairly useless husk.

According to a staffer of Bonta’s who is in charge of this bill it’s essentially irredeemable this term, but they’re going to try again next year. Also, she was kind enough to send me a huge selection of letters received, pro and con, including a bunch from many of our Los Angeles BID friends. If we can’t beat them, well, at least we can publish their ravings and then mock them, right? The whole collection is available on Archive.Org. You should definitely read through it if you’re interested. The support letters are fabulous, but I don’t have time to discuss them here.

And turn the page for a more comprehensive description of exactly what happened, of how the BIDs, as usual, missed the whole point, and an exceedingly, painstakingly, obsessively, mockingly detailed analysis of this characteristically delusional, narcissistic, crackle-pated nonsense from our own Ms. Kerry Morrison.1
Continue reading How Kerry Freaking Morrison And A Bunch Of Other Bad BIDdies Helped Gut AB-1479, An Essential Improvement To The California Public Records Act, And It Seems, If You Believe Them (Although Why Would You, Really?), To Be All My Freaking Fault For Being So Freaking Mean To Them On The Freaking Internet And Being “Intent On Bringing [Their Freaking] Organization To Its [Freaking] Demise”!

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In Defense Of Counting Neighborhood Councils As City Agencies In The Context Of The Municipal Lobbying Ordinance

As you may well know, the City Ethics Commission is in the process of revising the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. The CEC’s policy staff, led by heroic and long-suffering director Arman Tarzi, has compiled a fantastically useful report on the proposals, and a series of three interested persons meetings are scheduled starting tomorrow to gather even more input.

Right now it looks like at least four of five Commissioners are leaning towards giving the lobbyists whatever random nonsense they request, so your comments and input are essential to the future of the City at this point. Whether or not you can attend any of the meetings, I hope you will be able to send comments to ethics.policy@lacity.org, probably before October 17, which is when the Commission is scheduled to discuss the matter. And I’m also writing posts on particular parts of the proposal which seem important. This one, on including neighborhood councils as City agencies for lobbying disclosure purposes, is the third in the series, and the other two are:

And read on for a description of the proposal and reasons to support it!
Continue reading In Defense Of Counting Neighborhood Councils As City Agencies In The Context Of The Municipal Lobbying Ordinance

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How I Reported The Los Feliz Village BID To The LA County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit For Brown Act Violations

You may recall that a couple weeks ago I published a big stack of emails from the famed Los Feliz Village BID. Amongst these were this little gem of an email chain, wherein the entire Board of Directors of the LFVBID, over the course of about two weeks in May 2017, discuss some nonsense relating to something called Urban Air Market. The facts themselves are as tedious as can be but, as I noted previously, the Brown Act at §54952.2(b)(1) explicitly forbids this kind of thing:

A majority of the members of a legislative body shall not, outside a meeting authorized by this chapter, use a series of communications of any kind, directly or through intermediaries, to discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item of business that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.

Well, I’ve been so busy working on matters related to the revisions to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance that’s presently being worked on by the Ethics Commission that I’ve barely had time to think of anything else. Yesterday, though, I needed a little break from lobbying and decided to take the time to write up a report to the LA County DA’s Public Integrity Division regarding this egregious violation. You can download a copy of the complaint or read a reasonably faithful transcription after the break.1
Continue reading How I Reported The Los Feliz Village BID To The LA County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit For Brown Act Violations

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CD9 Rep Curren Price Requires Developers Of South LA Honda Dealership To Contribute $50,000 Towards Consultant Fees For The Formation Of A New Business Improvement District As Condition Of Approving Development Agreement

Alleged bigamist and CD9 rep Curren Price to developers: Want to build a car dealership? Gimme $50,000 to pay for another damn business improvement district!
Maybe you’ve heard about the impending move of Honda of Downtown Los Angeles to a gigantic new five story building on Martin Luther King Blvd. at Hoover. Building projects of this size don’t happen in Los Angeles without a lot of involvement of the relevant Council District, which in this case is CD9, repped by Alleged bigamist Curren Price.1 The various negotiations and agreements are typically formalized in a development agreement between the City and the developer, and this is no exception. You can read the whole thing here, although it’s a heavyweight 35MB PDF download, so click with care.

And one of the typical elements of these development agreements is a statement of the public benefits that are expected to result from the project. These typically include financial contributions to this or that cause favored by the Councilmember, introduced by the phrase “Additionally, as consideration for this Agreement, Developer agrees to provide the following…” In this case, there are two of these (found on page 7 of the agreement, here’s a PDF of just the relevant page, also find a transcription after the break).

The first is $100,000 for present and future employees of Honda of DTLA to attend LA Trade Tech.2 The other contribution to the putative public benefit is $50,000 to pay a BID consultant for the formation of a new business improvement district in CD9. CD9 presently has three BIDs, which are the Figueroa Corridor BID, the Central Avenue Historic District BID, and the shadowy South Los Angeles Industrial Tract BID, so this would make a fourth.

Originally I thought that this new dealership would be located in the Figueroa Corridor BID, but a glance at their map reveals that the north side of MLK is the BID’s southern boundary, which is why, I suppose, that a new BID is necessary. Anyway, there’s no real moral to this story, although I admit it’s pretty jarring to see the formation of yet another damn BID pitched as a public benefit.

That principle, however, is even written into the Property and Business Improvement District Act of 1994, specifically e.g. at §36601(e), which claims implausibly that ” Property and business improvement districts formed throughout this state have conferred special benefits upon properties and businesses within their districts and have made those properties and businesses more useful…” so I guess it’s no surprise that Curren Price thinks BIDs are good. Anyway, it is always useful to have more information about how and why the LA City government forms new BIDs and pays its BID consultants. Turn the page for a transcription of the relevant parts of the development agreement.
Continue reading CD9 Rep Curren Price Requires Developers Of South LA Honda Dealership To Contribute $50,000 Towards Consultant Fees For The Formation Of A New Business Improvement District As Condition Of Approving Development Agreement

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A collaborative denunciation of Business Improvement Districts in Los Angeles