You may recall that I recently received a moderately sized set of public records from the Westwood Village BID, some of which I wrote about the other day. You can look at the whole collection here on Archive.Org,1 and one of these is the text for today’s sermon, a conversation amongst Michael Skiles, Grayce Liu of the Department Of Neighborhood Empowerment, and Lisa Chapman, president of the Westwood Neighborhood Council.
There’s a transcription and more commentary after the break, of course, but here’s a brief summary of what went on. Lisa Chapman wrote to Grayce Liu telling her that she heard Michael Skiles say that Westwood Forward did not choose the date of the election, which was not on a weekend as NC elections usually are. Grayce Liu wrote back in her inimitably condescending manner saying some nonsense that sane people can barely credit.
Michael Skiles wrote to Grayce Liu thanking her in his inimitably sycophantic manner and explaining that weekday elections were agreed on by him and Andrew Freaking Thomas, who sane people want to know why is this guy involved at all? What, we all want to know, do BIDs have to do with making detailed decisions like this about NC matters?
Then, the absolute kicker, Grayce Liu wrote back to Michael Skiles stating that the City Clerk forbade subdivision elections to be spread out over multiple days “because of voter security issues.” Of course, this is horrific and shocking given that for the Skid Row NC subdivision election Grayce Liu herself allowed putative pop-up polls to take place on multiple days in multiple locations including restricted access buildings emphatically NOT open to the public. And now no one at the City can actually audit the votes cast in that election, which suggests strongly that there were very serious, as yet undiscovered, “voter security issues,” which no one at the City cares about.
But of course, “voter security issues” are going to be cosmically important in elections like this Westwood one, where zillionaires and their financial interests fall on both sides of the question. In a case like Westwood, because zillionares disagree, every vote truly does count, so the most secure practices must be followed by the City, and the City recognizes this. In a case like Skid Row, where the zillionaires were unified on one side, voter security would have just gotten in the way of stealing the election. Anyway, read on for the details.
Like I said, here’s a link to the email chain. The earliest part of this that I have so far2 is from Lisa Chapman to Grayce Liu:
On Thu, Mar 8, 2018 at 12:02 PM, Chapman, Lisa <LChapman@mednet.ucla.edu> wrote:
Gibson and Grayce,
Michael Skiles of Westwood Forward said at a public meeting today that they did not ask for the election date of May 22nd, which is on a Tuesday.
You told me that date was chosen rather than a weekend because Westwood Forward asked for that.
Which is it??
ALL neighborhood Council elections have been implemented on a weekend in our region, so the broadest group of stakeholders could participate.
Why was a Tuesday chosen?
This needs to be changed to a weekend date.
Please advise ASAP.
It’d be easy to poke fun at the overwrought tone Lisa Chapman uses here, when all that’s at stake is the day of the week on which the election will be held. But that would be a very blinkered point of view. If we’ve learned anything over the last 18 months it is that the people who control the technical details of the election control the outcome of the election as well. She is right to be worried. This is how elections get stolen. And here’s Grayce Liu’s answer:
On Fri, Mar 9, 2018 at 1:40 PM, Grayce Liu <email@example.com> wrote:
Hope all is well. Thanks for the email. There has been a lot of misinformation circulating about this subdivision so I would appreciate it if you could confirm your information before stating it as fact. I did not say that Westwood Forward selected the May 22nd election date. This date was provided by the City Clerk as the earliest date they could assist us with conducting a Westwood subdivision election if the application moved to that phase. They also stated it was likely the latest date that could be set this fiscal year because of the Memorial Day holiday and the UCLA students going into finals in early June. That’s why that date is in our February 9th letter to the Formation Committee.
When the Formation Committee came to City Hall to discuss the boundaries issue last week, we explained why that date was selected by the City Clerk. I can check with City Clerk if there is some wiggle room in changing that date to an earlier weekend if the subdivision application is approved next week to move to the election phase, and everyone is agreeable to less outreach time. Stakeholders will also have the opportunity to vote by mail so that should help those who cannot go to the polls the day of the election.
Please let me know if you have any other questions.
Department of Neighborhood Empowerment
This woman is really a piece of work. Here she is, the manager of a City department that is supposed to facilitate the work of neighborhood councils, writing to the president of a major NC, who is, not incidentally, a full-grown adult human being, and saying things like this: There has been a lot of misinformation circulating about this subdivision so I would appreciate it if you could confirm your information before stating it as fact. I mean, the issues Tony Butka raised about her in March when he called for her to be fired are objectively more serious, but this kind of weird gratuitous condescension is maddening in a unique way. And thus spake Michael Stiles:
On Friday, March 9, 2018, GSA President <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Thank you for correcting the rumor that we insisted on May 22nd (she’s also been spreading a rumor that we are also insisting that there only be one polling place and that it be on campus).
But while we did not request the May 22nd date, we actually do think it’s important that the election be held on a weekday. I discussed this with Andrew from the BID and we concurred that if the election were held on a Sunday, that would exclude many of the business workers who commute to Westwood as well as tens of thousands of commuting UCLA students, faculty and staff. While I’m not sure who is uniquely available on Sundays, and while Tuesdays work well enough for all of our national elections, I would not be opposed to having a polling place open on Sundays in addition to a weekday. But have polling places on a weekday is critical to allowing all of Westwood’s Stakeholders to participate in the democratic process.
President, UCLA Graduate Students Association
Graduate Chair, UC Council of Student Body President
Shorter Michael Skiles: “Boo hoo hoo Grayce!! Big meanie Lisa Chapman has “also been spreading a rumor that we are also insisting that there only be one polling place and that it be on campus.” Thank you for making her stop being mean!! Can she be grounded and take away her allowance, please Mom?!!?
But that bit’s just embarrassing. The part about Andrew Thomas is horrifying. It is yet another example of the way that BIDs have insinuated themselves into every aspect of the government of this City including, recently, neighborhood councils, in which they really have no place.3 We’ve already seen how Michael Skiles let Andrew Thomas rewrite the North Westwood NC’s bylaws. He also let him influence the structure of the election. I don’t know where this trend will end, but it’s already gone far, far too far. The final email in the conversation is from Grayce Liu, and it’s the most upsetting of all of them:
Subject: Re: Date of election
From: Grayce Liu <email@example.com>
Date: 03/09/2018 08:30 PM
To: GSA President <firstname.lastname@example.org>
CC: Andrew Thomas <email@example.com>, Mike Fong <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Gibson Nyambura <Gibson.Nyambura@lacity.org>
Hope all is well. Thanks for your email. We’re happy to correct information when we can.
We’ll discuss election date issues once we get to that point. City Clerk initially ruled out multiple election days for subdivision elections because of voter security issues though so it’ll likely be only one election day.
Have a great weekend and see you next week!
Where was this prudence during the Skid Row Neighborhood Council subdivision election? For that election DONE ran ten distinct polling places that were open over the course of a full seven days, from March 29, 2017 through April 5, 2017. Nobody was worrying about voter security then, were they? In fact, from Grayce Liu’s later behavior, it’s likely that voter insecurity was one of the desired goals. These people’s actions would be shameful, if they were only capable of feeling shame.
Image of Michael Skiles making a prophetic gesture is ©2018 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and is based to some minor extent on/off this Michael Skiles right here.
- Not really the whole collection, I’m afraid, because the BID’s executive director, Andrew Thomas, under the baleful influence of self-proclaimed CPRA expert Carol Freaking Humiston, got a weaselly little notion in his weaselly little head, from which such things are not, it would seem, readily dislodged, to the effect that he would gain some kind of advantage over me if he practiced the batty little fusspot approved Blair Besten method of randomly distributed, indefensible, numerous redactions, thereby forcing me either to pay megabucks for paper copies or else to burn his time at a rate of about $200 per hour (more on this in a forthcoming post) to sit there and play candy crush while I read and took notes on the paper copies I can’t afford. But I did buy 49 sheets from the guy, all of which appear on the Archive.Org page linked to. All of them because they’re of deep and abiding public interest, like the one I’m writing on today if I ever get through this damn footnote, and some of which because additionally they’re going to sink Carol Humiston’s lil boat, and probably take Andrew Thomas down with it. Stay tuned, of course!
- Although I certainly have CPRA requests pending to learn more about this matter!
- Other than, of course, as residents in their own neighborhoods, if they even live in Los Angeles, and if they can even stoop to participate in normal political processes as one among equals, which, once people have had a taste of the kind of dictatorial power offered by BIDs to their congregants, they very rarely can do.