I reported last week that Serena Oberstein, Vice President of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, had engaged in undisclosed ex parte communications with a couple of (unregistered) lobbyists regarding a proposal to revise the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. Of course, at present, there’s no requirement for any City commissioners, except Harbor Commissioners, to disclose such communication.
However, the example of the Board of Harbor Commissioners shows that it is possible for City commissions to adopt more stringent requirements than the rest of City government is subject to. Given the role of the Ethics Commission in defending the public interest in transparency and disclosure, it seems like a natural candidate for such a policy.
I hope to write about the outcome of the discussion as soon as possible, although things are ultra-busy here at MK.Org secret headquarters. The short version is that the Commission accepted most of what staff recommended with a few changes and two items to be discussed even more at the December meeting. In any case, it turns out that the most interesting part of the meeting, and I don’t think this is so uncommon in City Hall, took place in the hallway fifteen minutes before the call to order.
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission is charged not only with enforcing ethics laws and regulations but also with reviewing and revising them periodically. Because the City Council is subject to these laws it wouldn’t make much sense for them to be able to alter them at will. The temptation to exempt themselves and their creepy zillionaire buddies would ultimately be too much for their corrupt vestigial little senses of morality to bear and we’d end up without any ethics laws at all.
Thus the process, as described in the City Charter at §703(a), requires the Ethics Commission to propose the changes and gives the City Council the authority only to disapprove but not to modify them.3 This strikes me as a quite clever way to balance the competing interests involved:
The commission may adopt, amend and rescind rules and regulations, subject to Council approval without modification, to carry out the purposes and provisions of the Charter and ordinances of the City relating to campaign finance, conflicts of interest, lobbying, and governmental ethics and to govern procedures of the commission.4
So at its meeting in February, the Ethics Commission approved a bunch of revised enforcement regulations. You can read the original proposal. This was duly sent up to the City Council, where it was placed in Council File 14-0049-S1. Well, on Thursday, after the Mayor’s concurrence was received, the Council finalized the matter and the new regulations are approved and will take effect on August 14.5
Tonight I had the pleasure of receiving from self-proclaimed active member of the revitalized Hollywood community6 Jeffrey Charles Briggs almost 200 emails between the East Hollywood Business Improvement District and various far-too-friendly folks at the City of Los Angeles. For now these are available here on Archive.Org. They’re PDFs, but they’re that super-PDF-format that one can make with genuine Adobe software that embeds attachments right in there with clickable links.7 I have only been able to give these a cursory look-over, but I can already see a few crucial items. I’ll be writing on these matters as soon as I possibly can, but if you want a preview of one of them take a look at this juicy little number.
So just tonight the Palms Neighborhood Council filed yet another Community Impact Statement opposing Mitch O’Farrell’s Kerry-Morrison-behested anti-playground motion. And like the Eagle Rock NC and the Lincoln Heights NC and the Los Feliz NC before them, they’ve made a well-reasoned and articulate argument:
This measure would penalize lawful park users and would result in discriminatory enforcement. Such a ban improperly assumes that adult park users in a children’s playground area are there solely for nefarious purposes and seeks to ban lawful conduct. Simply being present in a park and enjoying the surroundings is not illegal. There are already criminal laws on the books to address any improper conduct in these areas.
A super-short note to announce the availability of two years worth of minutes and agendas from the Wilshire Center BID Board of Directors. These are available both via Archive.Org and also in local static storage. These are interesting for the usual reasons, e.g. understanding connections between BIDs and City agencies, what BIDs are up to with respect to public policy, and so forth. And, as usual, there’s also some weirdness to mock, although, sadly, nothing even approaching the real-estate-agents-on-acid weirdness of the Pacific Palisades BID. For instance, in the October 2015 minutes we read:
The question of why homelessness is worsening was discussed. Early release of criminals, mental illness, and service resistant individuals are some of the major reasons. By using a nurturing approach, more of the homeless may be helped. Getting to know individuals, helping out by giving socks, asking if they would like help, are some of the ways the LAPD is breaking through.
The principle of charity leads me to assume that these are the kind of socks one wears on one’s feet rather than the kind one might expect the LAPD to be handing out to the homeless if one were to consider their long, long history of violence.
By July 2016 we have learned that the BID is working with its Council Offices, but they don’t know how to spell David Ryu’s name and they seem to think Herb Wesson’s name is Justin:2
The BID will continue to work closely with the LAPD and the Council Offices, CD4 (Councilman David Ru) and CD10 (Justin Wesson) to help mitigate problems in our area.
Chapter 2 of that law describes the process for establishment and renewal of a BID,5 and it’s remarkable how tentative, how conditional the process is. It’s well-known by this point that in order for a BID to be formed it’s necessary that property owners representing more than 50% of the assessed value be in favor.6 It’s necessary, but it by no means sufficient. Section 36625(a) very clearly leaves the question of formation up to the Council:
If the city council, following the public hearing, decides to establish a proposed property and business improvement district, the city council shall adopt a resolution of formation…
The only mandatory requirement with respect to BID establishment in the whole Chapter is found in Section 36623(b), which says that if owners holding 50% or more of the assessed value are opposed to the BID, not only can it not be formed, but no further attempts can be made to form it for a year.
And the discretionary nature of the process is reflected in the City’s BID Policy and Implementation Guidelines as well. Therein it states:7
The City Council can proceed with the BID if the protest is less than 50%. However, BID proponents are cautioned that they should not expect a favorable vote from the City Council with a significant number of protests.
From the context it’s clear that the policy means that there is some threshold of protest less than 50% with respect to which the Council will not establish the proposed BID even though the Property and BID Act would allow them to do so.
I spent about three hours yesterday in City Hall and at the LAPD Discovery office scanning stuff. There are thousands of pages of stuff here, some of it quite important. It will take a long time to go through it and write about the highlights, so I thought I’d put it up on the Archive in (very, very) raw form immediately. Here’s what we have today:
More emails from 2015 between Peter Zarcone and the HPOA — What happened is that the first time I made a request for this material, the LAPD IT department somehow missed a number of responsive documents. I could tell that they did because of automatically generated out-of-office responses that they did provide the first time around. However, the emails which had triggered those responses weren’t included, which was evident from the dates. They accepted this argument and reran the search. Consequently many but not all of these documents have already been published, but I have not yet had time to sort out the duplicates. As I said, I want to make the material available immediately.
Emails between Tara Devine and the LA City Clerk’s Office — Here are thousands of pages of emails between Tara Devine and various people in the LA City Clerk’s office. Some of these have been previously published but most of them have not. Interestingly, although most of the material is about the Venice Beach BID, there is also a bunch of stuff about the South Park II BID11 renewal, which Tara Devine was also the consultant for. I will be writing about much of this material, but here’s the raw stuff. Drop me a note if you spot anything that seems especially pressing.
I reported briefly last week on the whole to-do about the City’s wanton approval of a Frank Gehry megaplex at 8150 Sunset and, more recently, on the extremely weird fact that the Council’s PLUM1 Committee forwarded proposed historic-cultural designation of the Lytton Savings building on to the full Council without a recommendation, even though CD4 Councilmember David Ryu explicitly favors the designation. This is just a brief update with links to more documents.