I wrote yesterday about a troubling meeting of the Ethics Commission concerning revisions to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. The proposals are still very much in flux, and timely public comments are not only essential for swaying the wavering commissioners in the right direction, but the commissioners, no matter their other flaws, do seem to read them, so they’re likely to be effective if submitted over the next couple of months.1
I had planned to write a letter to the Commission about all the issues together and publish it here as well, but the more I think about it the more I have to say. Thus I thought it would be much easier for everyone if I wrote about one issue at a time and then edited the posts down into a single letter to the Commission. Also, maybe you’ll find some of my ideas useful in framing your own letters, which should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Friday the City Ethics Commission released a list of proposed updates to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. This is scheduled for discussion at the Commission’s upcoming August 15 meeting. These are extraordinarily far-reaching and much welcome proposals, and you’ll find a list with commentary after the break. Just for instance, though, they’re proposing to alter the definition of a lobbyist to make it easier to decide when they’re required to register, to require disclosure of specific City employees lobbied, to require disclosure of positions taken on lobbied issues, and so on.
First though, let me just outline the slightly unusual procedure by which government ethics laws are changed in the City of Los Angeles. Unlike most laws, which are proposed, amended, and passed or defeated by the City Council, ethics laws are proposed by the Ethics Commission. Once the Commission finalizes its proposal, it’s sent to the City Council, which has the right to adopt the proposal or reject the proposal, but they are specifically forbidden from altering the proposal.
Of course, something like this complex procedure is necessary, because it wouldn’t be safe to allow the City Council, the main agency reined in by ethics laws, to rewrite them on their own initiative. They’d very soon be meaningless. However, it seems to make the laws extraordinarily difficult to change in substantive ways. For instance, the Ethics Commission sent up a set of proposals fairly similar to the current set in 2010.
This is an old story, and a sad one. Here’s how it goes: Kerry Morrison whispers sweet nothings in the receptive ear of CD13 field deputy Dan Halden at one of their monthly breakfast meetings. Dan, who for some reason thinks Kerry and her minions are Mitch’s constituents, passes the whisper on to “his boss.”1 Mitch O’Farrell, no doubt contemplating the oodles and scads of money trickling down to him from the heavy-laden coffers of Ms. and Mr. Kerry Morrison, mutters to himself something like “That sounds good! No need to run that by anyone sane! Kerry Morrison and her money would never lead me astray!!”
But once in a while sane people are paying attention, and then all those reasons that seemed so compelling in the back room suddenly start to look a little — and then a whole freaking lot — crazy. This happens all the time.2 And it’s beginning to happen again with this whole playground thing. If you subscribe to the Council file , you will have been notified last night that the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council voted unanimously to oppose Mitch and Kerry’s motion (full text after the break if you’re PDF-averse).
My colleagues and I have spilled a great deal of metaphorical ink explaining exactly how Kerry Morrison hung up fake kids-only signs in Selma Park in 2007, thereby stealing 8 years of access from the people of Los Angeles, and the issue has taken on some renewed currency by virtue of her newly revealed conspiracy with Mitch O’Farrell regarding restrictions on playground use in City parks. But until fairly recently we didn’t really know why she’d done it.1 Well, it turns out that the explanation was lurking in her BID’s 2006 First Quarter report to the Clerk’s office, wherein we read:
HED staff and the security team continue to monitor the situation in Selma Park, where a Saturday feeding program for homeless individuals has overtaken a park intended for neighborhood children. Attempts will be made to organize the families to prevail upon the council office to declare the entire park a “children’s only” playground.
And none of this is really a secret. For instance, here are more than 30 pages of emails from Kerry Morrison to various coreligionists extolling the virtues of Christian love for one’s City, praying for one’s City, serving one’s City as a “Christ Follower,” and whatnot. And there’s a long and vital tradition of this kind of thing in Christianity, to be sure. E.g. compare Paul’s letter to the Hebrews 11:9-10 on how Abraham’s faith led him to leave his home and live like a stranger for the sake of finding the City of God:
By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
One minor part of their proposal would have clarified without altering the application of these laws to business improvement districts which then, as now, are almost certainly required to register as lobbyists, even though none of them do nor have they ever. This minor clause in a major reform proposal kicked off a whirlwind of mouth-slavvery craziness on the part of the BIDs, which ended with Eric Garcetti effectively killing the CEC’s proposal in 2010 for no good reason other than that Kerry Morrison giggled at him in a committee meeting.1
This morning I have to report to you two developments in my ongoing project to use the California Public Records Act to get the City of Los Angeles to publicly release advance notice of its planned cleanups of homeless encampments. First of all, on October 31 I made yet another request for various kinds of records dated in the future. On November 8, Letitia Gonzalez sent me a number of items, which I’ll share with you below. You may recall that Letitia was responsible for my one success so far in this project, sending me notice on September 28 of a cleanup on September 29. However, this time, not so much. After the break there’s a list of what she sent, what I asked for, and what I think it means.1 There are also some emails from the Central City East Association (part of the material published on Thursday) showing that LA Sanitation does give advance notice of cleanups in some cases. Continue reading Update On Using CPRA To Get Advance Notice Of Homeless Encampment Cleanups: In Theory It’s Working Fine, But In Practice Not So Much→
After I spent some time looking into the Central Avenue Historic BID in the context of potential political goals for the post-approval Venice Beach BID, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about this newborn BID.1 The meetings are held at CD9’s district office at 4301 S. Central,2 so on a very pleasant evening last Thursday, I took the 210 out of Hollywood to MLK and Crenshaw, where I boarded the 705 to Central and Vernon from whence a couple blocks North on Central to watch the Board of Directors conduct their business.3 The meeting was scheduled to start at 5:30, but that evidently included some preliminaries, because when I got there at about 10 to 64 they hadn’t started yet.
Anyway, take a look at the agenda. You can see that they’re talking about the kind of things that one would expect BIDs to talk about from, e.g., reading the Wikipedia page on BIDs,5 like branding and marketing, cleaning the streets, having Halloween events, and so on. And watch this short clip of the meeting.6 That’s Sherri Franklin of the Urban Design Center, the BID consultant, who also seems to be functioning as executive director, talking about some kind of partnership the BID’s working on with Hollywood Community Housing Corporation involving affordable housing at the corner of Central and Jefferson.7 And then you can watch here as BID security director Allan Muhammad introduces his employees, and then they proceed to hand out sample Halloween bags to everyone in the room. They didn’t once discuss custodial arrests, handcuffs, social engineering, mass relocations, self-aggrandizing 5150 holds, or any of the other hard-edged tactics of which the City’s older and ever so much more dangerous BIDs are so enamored. And even though I only got 15 minutes on tape of the 90 minutes I was there8 they didn’t really have anything objectionable to say even during the parts of the meeting I didn’t record. They talked about parking, they talked about their phone bills, they talked about how it was hard for the BID to patronize local businesses because they mostly only accepted cash.9
Did you even know that the members of our esteemed City Council all send one another and various other people gifts in the putative holiday season? Well they do, and evidently it’s just another thing that the pretty people do when they’re all drinking, thinking that they got it made.1
The City Ethics Commission requires City officials to keep track of these presents, and so, in response to a CPRA request, I received these records from Chad Molnar the other day, despite his claim that fulfilling my more substantial requests would make CD11 constituents suffer. Perhaps he sent these items along because they aren’t likely to make the constituents, who thrive in darkness and secrecy and evidently include outlaw BID proponents Mark Sokol and Carl Lambert, suffer too much, because they have very little content. However, what they do have is fairly amusing. You can get them: