Kerry Morrison Accuses Street Vending Proponents Collectively of “Almost Resembl[ing] a Circus,” Being “Completely Dysfunctional [and] Disrespectful,” and “Being Bused in,” Elides True Nature of Putative Coalition

Kerry Morrison at the July 9, 2015 meeting of the Joint Security Committee being the opposite of dysfunctional, disrespectful, and circus-like.
Kerry Morrison at the July 9, 2015 meeting of the Joint Security Committee looking mighty fed up with something while at the same time, of course, being nondysfunctional, nondisrespectful, and in no way resembling a circus.
We’ve written before about the HPOA’s crazed-and-at-the-mouth-foaming opposition to Councilmembers Huizar’s and Price’s proposed ordinance legalizing street vending in the city of Los Angeles. We’ve written about the HPOA’s scheme to send its agents to public meetings in the ill-concealed guise of concerned citizens opposing the ordinance. Today we report on Kerry Morrison’s recent discussion of her experience orchestrating that whole fiasco. We’ll analyze it line by line, and you can watch the whole thing here and/or read a transcription after the break.

there were a series of four hearings that the chief administrative office staff held on the… the sidewalk vending ordinance. … It’s just this kind of amorphous set of hearings, which were completely dysfunctional, disrespectful, and almost, um, resembled a circus.

This painting by Georges Seurat almost resembles a circus also, but, and this is a subtle point but sound, Cela ne veut pas un cirque.
This painting by Georges Seurat almost resembles a circus also, but, and this is a subtle point but sound, cela ne veut pas un cirque.

Kerry’s been on before about this issue, people not treating her agents provocateurs to what she delusorily imagines to be the duly appropriate level of forelock-tugging, although she hits a new high note1 here. We mean, we weren’t at the hearings, but it’s hard to imagine that they were dysfunctional. It’s easier to imagine that perhaps Kerry’s mistaken the purpose. It’s hard to see how a public hearing can be disrespectful without being told towards what or whom it’s disrespectful. Does she mean the hearing was disrespectful towards her minions? What is it that they’ve done to earn anyone’s respect? Perhaps she means something else. And as for the hearings “almost…resembl[ing] a circus,” well, we imagine that’s nothing more than the reaction of someone who has done her illegal best to make sure that the public doesn’t feel welcome at the meetings she’s the boss of to finding out that she’s not the boss of every meeting in Los Angeles and, just possibly, maybe not so welcome at all of them her own self.

Uh, I think after the last meeting, John and I went that night and, um, Mark Nathanson [??] from our board, uh, Mark Stephenson from our board was also there at Van Nuys, and, um, you know, the, there were people being bused in, uh, every…body who spoke had the same, the same, um, tune, like [mockingly imitates pro-ordinance speaker’s same tune] “I need to be able to sell on the street to support my family.”

Kerry Morrison complaining about street-vending proponents all "ha[ving] the same tune" is like this picture in a way that we find hard to describe without putting other people's words into our own mouths, something which we're generally loath to do.
Kerry Morrison complaining about street-vending proponents all “ha[ving] the same tune” is like this picture in a way that we find hard to describe without putting other people’s words into our own mouths, something which we’re generally loath to do.

OK, first we have the sublime2 irony of someone complaining that her ideological opponents were “bused in” right after she discusses how she arranged for the busing-in of her staff and colleagues. It really sounds like someone’s a little peeved at being “outnumbered easily 10:1.”3 And, everybody who spoke “had the same tune,” did they? Like, maybe they were organized by someone? Like maybe they got together and thought up some talking points? Of course, sincere people never do that, do they? Well, almost never. Take a look here at 11 MB of communications from the public to the City Council opposing this proposed ordinance. Here are some highlights:

  1. I am writing in strong opposition of the proposal to legalize street vending in the City of Los Angeles. —Jolly Nanda
  2. Le escribo en enérgica oposición de la propuesta por legalizar la venta callejera en la Ciudad de Los Angeles. —Jose Acosta
  3. I am writing in strong opposition of the proposal to legalize street vending in the City of Los Angeles. —[Unintelligible signature]
  4. I am writing in strong opposition of the proposal to legalize street vending in the City of Los Angeles. —Vanessa Zuniga
  5. I am writing in strong opposition of the proposal to legalize street vending in the City of Los Angeles. —Krisoneeya S.
  6. I am writing in strong opposition of the proposal to legalize street vending in the City of Los Angeles. —[Unintelligible signature]
  7. I am writing in strong opposition of the proposal to legalize street vending in the City of Los Angeles. —Rajiv Sharma
  8. Le escribo en enérgica oposición de la propuesta por legalizar la venta callejera en la Ciudad de Los Angeles. —Onofre Mendoza
  9. Le escribo en enérgica oposición de la propuesta por legalizar la venta callejera en la Ciudad de Los Angeles. —Maria Martir
  10. I am writing in strong opposition of the proposal to legalize street vending in the City of Los Angeles. —Anastasia Azaryan

So, like, that’s enough of dismissing people because they’re organized and they all say the same thing. All sides of every issue seem to do this when dealing with the city council and, in a rare instance of Kerry Morrison and the staff of this blog agreeing on something, we do find this practice somewhat ludicrous. However, in an especially poignant bit of irony, we’ve previously written about an earlier bunch of serially plagiarized letters sent by opponents of street vending and noted that, while the letter Kerry sent at that time is less plagiarized than most of them, it still “had the same tune” as the others.

Finally, we’ll just mention that if you’re gonna go on about respect, you ought to just believe people when they say they have to do something to support their families unless you have strong evidence to the contrary. It’s just basic human decency, especially from people who, whether they’ve ever had to worry about how they’re going to feed their children, almost certainly don’t have to worry about it now. And even if you won’t take our advice on this, at the very least don’t use a mocking tone of voice when you imitate people saying things like “I need to be able to sell on the street to support my family.” Just don’t, OK? It’s icky and whoever does it has already lost the argument.

…if there’s any enforcement, because there is no street vending ordinance, uh, currently, it is illegal, that, enforcement was considered harassment.

We don’t have hard statistics, but the visual evidence suggests that the city’s laws against street vending are selectively enforced against non-white people. “Aha!” says you, “maybe non-white people are more prone to street-vending.” Well, maybe so, who knows? But it doesn’t matter. It’s clear that selective enforcement of facially race-neutral laws is harassment, yes, but even worse, is a violation of the fourteenth amendment to the United States constitution. Here’s how it goes in LA. The city makes street-vending illegal. The LAPD enforces the law rarely if at all except when there’s organized complaint, often coming from BIDs and other powerful groups of rich white zillionaires. Some BIDs, which are clearly city agencies, most prominently the two main Hollywood ones, have security agents who are “blessed” by the LAPD and who arrest whomever they please, making the enforcement of these laws even more arbitrary than it is in the city outside the zones controlled by the BIDs. This isn’t just harassment, it’s really truly a violation of the equal protection clause.

Stanley Matthews, whose God-hand-guided pen wrote the unanimous opinion in Yick Wo v. Hopkins, establishing in 1886 that cities can't just pass laws to get rid of ethnic groups that they don't like, even if the laws don't mention race.
Stanley Matthews, whose God-hand-guided pen wrote the unanimous 1886 opinion Yick Wo v. Hopkins, establishing in 1886 that cities can’t just pass laws to get rid of ethnic groups that they don’t like, even if the laws don’t mention race.

But don’t take our word for it, “Ye know the Law—ye know the Law. Look well, O Wolves!”4 That is, hearken unto the words of the Supreme Court in Yick Wo v. Hopkins (frickin’ 1886):

If it is competent for the board of supervisors to pass a valid ordinance prohibiting the inhabitants of San Francisco from following any ordinary, proper, and necessary calling within the limits of the city and county, except at its arbitrary and unregulated discretion and special consent,–and it can do so if this ordinance is valid,–then it seems to us that there has been a wide departure from the principles that have heretofore been supposed to guard and protect the rights, property, and liberties of the American people. And if, by an ordinance general in its terms and form, like the one in question, by reserving an arbitrary discretion in the enacting body to grant or deny permission to engage in a proper and necessary calling, a discrimination against any class can be made in its execution, thereby evading and in effect nullifying the provisions of the national constitution, then the insertion of provisions to guard the rights of every class and person in that instrument was a vain and futile act.

So actually, Carol Schatz and I wrote a letter to Herb Wesson, the president of the city council after that meeting saying this is, this is really not being, you know, well-handled, there’s no security, it’s intimidating to people, there are people who did not want to testify. So the subsequent two hearings were, um, maybe a little bit more well-behaved.

Noam Chomsky in 2004.  He was married to a Carol Schatz but not the Carol Schatz.
Noam Chomsky in 2004. He was married to A Carol Schatz but not THE Carol Schatz.

We don’t have much to say about this because we don’t have the letter, although it’s being sought on our behalf and we’ll get back to you when we get it. There’s just so much privilege dripping from this statement, though. There’s no security?! There are people who did not want to testify?!!? They wrote to Herb Wesson and their good friend Herb cracked down on the future hearings and made everybody resemble a circus slightly less. Most importantly, though, the Carol Schatz being discussed here is almost certainly the president and CEO of the Central City Association rather than the Carol Schatz who used to be married to Noam Chomsky. Oh, and, BTW, Carol Schatz REALLY hates homeless people.

The Coalition is, um, building, the Coalition to Support Small Business, um, both BIDs have supported, like, most of the BIDs in LA have supported this coalition that’s being formed to try to have a reasonable voice…

Ah, the Coalition to Support Small Business. This is the astroturf bullshit group formed on behalf of the Central City Association, Carol Schatz’s army of flying monkeys led for this purpose by her trusty lieutenant Marie Rumsey, by the thuggish PR firm Rodriguez Strategies (who, for some reason, seems to have erased its live web presence entirely in the last few months). Long-time readers of this blog will recall that in March of 2015 we broke the story of the CCA hiring Rodriguez Strategies to run a campaign, coordinated by shadowy operative Jessica Borek, against the street-vending ordinance. You can read the petition that Jessica handed around to the BID Board in March. This petition, which features Jessica’s email address at the bottom, invites one to

Join businesses, residents and officials across the city working to establish a fair sidewalk-vending program that is tailored to fit the needs and wants of our communities.

Now look here for a copy of the petition being circulated by this putative coalition, which invites one to

Join businesses, residents and officials across the city in saying NO to a policy that hurts small businesses and puts the public at risk.

Instead of having Jessica Borek’s email at the bottom, the live petition has another gmail address and the URL of the group’s frickin’ Facebook page, like it would be too obviously corporate shenanigans if they paid ten bucks for a domain name? Are they pretending to be so gosh-darn grassroots that they don’t even know how to set up a web page? One of the kids that hangs around our secret headquarters, we think she’s about twelve, even she knows how to buy a domain for God’s sake. The facebook page has a grand total of 25 likes. Also, if more evidence is needed for the common source of these documents, note the glaring lack of the Oxford comma in both sentences.

The most entertaining aspect of the whole thing is the Coalition’s link to an online petition which, at the time of this writing, has 10 signatures (since March 25, 2015). Twenty percent of these signatures are from staff and Board members of the BID (Kerry Morrison, Alyssa Van Breene). As of today, July 15, 2015, that’s a rate of 0.089 signatures per day. That will put them at their target of 1,000 signatures in 11,088 days, a little more than 30 years from now. Good luck with that, folks and we’ll see you in 2045!

Anyway, this phony failed coalition, painfully pretending to be other than the noxious propaganda it so obviously is, is not “being formed to try to have a reasonable voice,” it’s being formed to fake out everyone who thinks it’s not a PR front. It is.

We don’t like to predict the future around here, but we’ll venture a guess in this case. Just like the abhorrent 2013 attempt by Tom LaBonge and Mitch O’Farrell to outlaw the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition, the organized public voice in favor of legalizing street-vending will actually overcome the objections of the white power structure zillionaire coalition opposed to the law. The council will, we predict, see legalization as a little bone it can throw to the 99% of this city and, like they had to do with the proposed and roundly defeated ban on public feeding of the homeless, will tell the zillionaires to suck it up and take this one for the team. We venture to say that there will be a law on the books allowing sidewalk vending everywhere in the city within 18 months. Check back!


Complete Transcription:

Fred Rosenthal: Staff update on current issues. The status of the sidewalk vending ordinance.

Kerry Morrison: Yeah. So. Um. As you… um… we talked about at the last meeting there were a series of four hearings that the chief administrative office staff held on the… the sidewalk vending ordinance. And what was really kind of, um, problematic about these hearings is that there’s no ordinance yet. There’s nothing to really react to. There’s no… nothing to.. uh, weigh in on with respect to where people will be located or what the fees would be or insurance requirements or licensing or, uh, health requirements. It’s just this kind of amorphous set of hearings, which were completely dysfunctional, disrespectful, and almost, um, resembled a circus. Uh, I think after the last meeting, John and I went that night and, um, Mark Nathanson [??] from our board, uh, Mark Stephenson from our board was also there at Van Nuys, and, um, you know, the, there were people being bused in, uh, every…body who spoke had the same, the same, um, tune, like [mockingly imitates pro-ordinance speaker’s same tune] “I need to be able to sell on the street to support my family.” There was no discussion of any parameters or rules that would, that you would actually feel to be part of a quote [sarcastic upspeak] policy hearing, and, um, what we…

John Tronson [interrupting]: Everything was “we’re being harassed.”

Kerry Morrison: Right, if there’s any enforcement, because there is no street vending ordinance, uh, currently, it is illegal, that, enforcement was considered harassment. So actually, Carol Schatz and I wrote a letter to Herb Wesson, the president of the city council after that meeting saying this is, this is really not being, you know, well-handled, there’s no security, it’s intimidating to people, there are people who did not want to testify. So the subsequent two hearings were, um, maybe a little bit more well-behaved. Uh, Joe attended the one in South LA and Matthew attended the one at City Council. So we were, we were in attendance at all four and, uh, now there’s gonna be a series of one-on-one meetings with members of the City Council, um, which staff will be involved in, I’ve got, um, board members involved in [unintelligible]. The Coalition is, um, building, the Coalition to Support Small Business, um, both BIDs have supported, like, most of the BIDs in LA have supported this coalition that’s being formed to try to have a reasonable voice… And actually one of the points that we’re making right now is there is a sidewalk vending ordinance in the city of LA that was adopted in 1994 that gives you the discretion to create a sidewalk vending district if your neighborhood wants one, and the first and only district that was ever created was in MacArthur Park, and that district failed because the law-abiding vendors who actually paid the fees and set up their carts around MacArthur Park complained because the, there was another whole group that never paid the fees and they, they, you know, kind of encircled them and there was no enforcement. So that sidewalk vending district folded, and our point is, if you want a sidewalk vending district, work with the [unintelligible] that you have and make it, make it work, otherwise Hollywood wants to be out of it. So this is, you know, continuing to be a, uh, an effort, and the BIDs are coalescing on this, um, we’ll keep you informed, but I, I thank the board members who did show up in the evening and sit for hours, you know, [unintelligible].

  1. Sometimes a high note is a metaphorically sonic apex, sometimes it’s just a climactically shrill moment.
  2. We’re literally not being ironic here. Look it up if you wanna to.
  3. BID Voices Express Concern Over Sidewalk Vending. Kerry H. Morrison, Only in Hollywood, Summer, 2015 Vol. 18 Issue 2 page 1.
  4. We do love the Jungle Book, and Kipling in general. You oughta read it if you ain’t done lately, OK?

Image of Kerry Morrison is ©2015 MichaelKohlhaas.org. The Seurat painting is in the public domain cause it’s so darn old and we got it from Wikimedia, as usual. Image of the pot and the kettle i’ th’ adage is in the public domain because its author put it there, thanks be to him, and we got it via Wikimedia. Image of Stanley Matthews was made by the excellent Matthew Brady in the 1870s and is in the public domain. We got it via Wikimedia. Image of Noam Chomsky came to us via Wikimedia, was taken by Duncan Rawlinson, and is released under the CC BY-2.0.

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