Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, the City agency that exists seemingly only to boss about Neighborhood Councils, although no one really knows whether or not they have the authority to do that, is pretty much the embodiment of evil.1 Just look at our tag archive for Grayce Liu to see the pernicious role these people played in the Skid Row Neighborhood Council debacle.
Grayce Liu was at the forefront of the mishandling of the SRNC appeal process, she played a major role in the use of online voting to torpedo the SRNC election, and so on. And it’s not all about Skid Row. DONE has been involved in controversy after controversy, all of them relating to their habit of undermining the power, such as it is, of the City’s neighborhood councils. And to date they have been able to do this in a fairly covert manner. No one has really been paying much attention.
On May 3, 2017 the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment sponsored a hearing on challenges to the Skid Row Neighborhood Council formation election. One of the main issues was, of course, the shadowy anonymous front corporation United Downtown LA and the names of the people behind it.
At that meeting, Patricia Berman, self-proclaimed President for Life of the DLANC board of directors, was moved to deny all knowledge of the matter and to affirm her overwhelming desire to find out who was behind it so she could get them kicked off the board. But don’t take my word for it! You can watch and listen to her, and here’s what she said:
If indeed one of our board members was involved with United DTLA I would love to find out about it, because I bet we could get them off the board really fast. However, I have no idea who these people are. I don’t know anyone on my board who does, and we certainly have asked around. We had nothing to do with this. I’m sorry it caused such a big stink. But the truth is it didn’t come from our listserve and it’s not something that came from us.
Jacob Douglas Van Horn is off the board for reasons that are probably unrelated to United Downtown LA, but the others remain. The most egregious case among these after Estela Lopez herself is Robert Newman, who was not only involved with United Downtown LA but was standing right behind Patti Berman when she made the statement.
She said she asked around, so either she didn’t ask him, which seems unlikely, or he lied to her when she asked him, or she lied when she said no one on her board knows who was behind the situation. None of these options look good for President Patti. However, she can go an awful long way towards washing away her sins by sticking to her promise and getting these five remaining miscreants “…off the board really fast.”
The biggest as-yet-unsolved mystery associated with the coordinated zombie zillionaire campaign against the Skid Row Neighborhood Council formation process earlier this year is the identity of the shadowy Delaware-incorporated anonymous front group United Downtown Los Angeles LLC and the sneaky furtive creepy crawly zillionaire and zillionaire-ophile natural person or persons lurking behind the corporate facade.
You may recall that the first anyone heard publicly from this bunch of dimwits was on March 17, 2017, when Rockard Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles and employee of lobbying firm Liner LLP, wrote his infamous letter to the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment demanding for various nonsensical reasons that they put a halt to the Skid Row Neighborhood Council formation process.
You may recall that one of the major issues raised in the Skid Row Neighborhood Council Formation Committee’s appeal to the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners over probably illegal, certainly immoral, shenanigans in the horrifically shady campaign against the SRNC was the question of whether DLANC had illegally opposed formation by sending out emails via its Mailchimp account. The turning point, though, was when the opposition convinced CD14 repster José Huizar to allow online voting at the last minute and to automatically register all people who’d voted in the last DLANC election.
The fact that Huizar decided to allow online voting meant that contact information for all the automatically registered voters suddenly became very valuable. I haven’t uncovered any new information on the Mailchimp front, but one of the emails from yesterday’s release of records from the Downtown Center BID reveals that on April 3, just three days before the hotly contested election, then-DLANC-Board-member Jacob Douglas van Horn,1 sent DLANC’s copy of the registered voter list to a rogues’ gallery of anti-SRNC conspirators. Here is the email and here’s what it says:
Attached is a spreadsheet with the list of pre-registered voters from the last election. All of these people have already been sent a login and pin by DONE. For many it is ending up in their spam email box. Please every take a few minutes to look over this list. If you know anyone on the list please follow up with them and make sure they have voted.
This is just a short note to announce two massive sets of emails that I’ve obtained over the last couple weeks. There’s so much material here that it’s taken an unusual amount of time to get it processed and published. I will be writing about this material over the next few weeks. There’s so much, and it’s so rich, that it’s going to take me a while to get it all sorted out, so I thought it’d be best to make it available to you right away:
Downtown Santa Monica BID — Emails between the City of Santa Monica and the Downtown Santa Monica BID from January 1 through September 8, 2017.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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:
Yesterday the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment submitted a report on online voting in neighborhood council elections to the Los Angeles City Council’s Health, Education, and Neighborhood Councils Committee.1 Here’s a link to the report, but be careful as it’s a massive PDF. After the great injustice and great pain caused by José Huizar and DONE by imposing online voting on the Skid Row Neighborhood Council effort one might think that DONE would have displayed some consciousness of the damage they’d created.
But that didn’t happen. In an unfortunately characteristic display of block-headed indifference to both morality and reality, the sole lesson DONE seems to have learned is that online voting increases voter participation:
The potential of online voting and voter registration to engage more stakeholders in Neighborhood Council elections was clear in the 2016 pilot as noted in the January 17, 2017 report and confirmed in the subdivision election for Skid Row Neighborhood Council this year where 1,388 votes were cast online out of a total of 1,592.
It’s disgusting indeed that they don’t even mention the fact that online voting increases participation among non-homeless people while actively decreasing it among the homeless, even though they are well aware of this fact. And their recommendation to the City Council, which will almost surely be adopted verbatim? It’s that online voting should not be imposed on any other neighborhood councils but that they be allowed to opt into it if they so choose:
[DONE recommends that Council i]nstruct the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment and Office of the City Clerk to make online voting an option available for the Neighborhood Councils whose online voting platforms are already built out …
Recently I obtained a few emails which shed even more light on the already unbelievable injustice worked upon the Skid Row Neighborhood Council Formation Committee by CD14 rep José Huizar. As has already been widely reported he unilaterally imposed online voting less than two weeks before the election. He did this in the face of explicit testimony that homeless residents would be irremediably disadvantaged by their relative lack of access to the Internet, a problem known as the digital divide.
He also ignored the serious problem that allowing online voting automatically registered more than 1,000 voters who could reasonably be expected to vote against the SRNC formation effort.1 These 1,000 voters obviously determined the outcome of the election given that, according to Gale Holland of the LA Times, there were 1,398 online ballots cast and 807 were cast against the SRNC.
Now, in addition to these trangressions, newly obtained emails reveal the fact that homeless people without adequate documentation were forbidden from voting online. Also, even non-homeless people, even people as powerful as Carol Schatz and Scott Gray,2 who did have adequate documentation had trouble registering to vote online and were assisted on an individual basis by Department of Neighborhood Empowerment staffers Stephen Box and Mike Fong. How much more difficult, then, was it for homeless people who weren’t on a first name basis with City staff, to register?
But in preparation for mocking the arrogant rich white supremacists who turned out at every meeting about the SRNC to bumble their whiny way through their idiotic decontextualized lies about “outreach” and “voter participation” and “united Downtown” and fucking “inadequate notification,” I listened to a recording of the March 22 meeting of the Rules and Elections Committee, which sickened me to the point that I lost any taste for making jokes about any of this.1 Huizar’s behavior is not funny, and I’m in no state of mind to make fun.2 He is a horrible person.3
In particular, here’s what I learned. Much of this information has been published before, but as far as I can tell, not all of it has:
Huizar decided to change the rules for the SRNC formation election to allow online voting. The change took place merely two weeks before voting began, even though he almost certainly had his mind made up weeks if not months earlier. If he had implemented the decision when he had made it at least there would have been time for the SRNC proponents to address this dispositive change in the rules.
He did this in the face of explicit testimony that online voting would disadvantage homeless people, who have extremely limited internet access. Even worse, he knew that the online voting system to be used by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment would preregister more than 1000 DLANC and HCNC voters from 2016, thereby overwhelming any online voters that the SRNC-FC might manage to register in two weeks and thus dooming any SRNC-FC online registration effort to irrelevance.
Huizar made this change unilaterally. It’s true that it was passed by the Rules and Elections Committee and then by the full Council, but if you listen to the recording.4 You will hear Huizar reading out his proposal and Herb Wesson pronouncing it adopted with neither discussion nor a vote.
Huizar ignored all the warnings he heard against allowing online voting with respect to the SRNC, but he took them all into account for other NC elections by stating explicitly that SRNC would be the only election to use online voting until further notice. This proves yet again that as far as the City of Los Angeles is concerned, rules do not apply to poor people. They’re not usually this overt about it, though.
Somehow Huizar allowed multiple polling locations distributed widely in both space and time. He did this in the face of Grayce Liu’s explicit statement that one polling place open for four hours is absolutely standard in NC elections. Again, Huizar unilaterally changed the rules for Skid Row.