Tag Archives: Lobbying

The South Park BID Solicited — Or Extorted — Donations Totalling $80,000 From Developers To Pay For Some Studies They Wanted Done — In Return The BID Sent Staffers To City Council Committee Meetings To Give Public Comment In Favor Of The Developers’ Projects — Using Talking Points Supplied By The Developers — Money Well Spent For The Developers I’m Guessing Since Councilmembers Probably Won’t Approve Projects BIDs Oppose — This Is One Way In Which The Illusion Of Community Buy-In Is Created And Maintained In Los Angeles — One Of The Developers Involved Was Lightstone Group — Whose Lobbyists Are Also Being Investigated In Relation To José Huizar — Because Of Course They Are

Here’s the short version. In 2017 the South Park BID wanted to lobby Metro concerning some transportation issues. To do this they needed some reports prepared by professionals who were going to charge them around $80,000. For whatever reason they didn’t want to pay out of the BID budget, so they hit up local developers for $5,000 contributions. In exchange the BID supported the developers’ various projects before City Council committees and commissions using talking points prepped by the developers to inform their public comments.

First, let’s talk about the two issues the BID was, and is, lobbying for. One is to establish an enhanced infrastructure financing district (EIFD)1 to fund transit improvements in the BID, in particular moving Pico Station underground.2 The BID’s “one pager”3 on the benefits to be gained from the EIFD can be read by clicking here and their presentation on “undergrounding” Pico Station is available here. The other issue has to do with improving connections between various presently disconnected-by-public-transit points Downtown. The BID’s presentation on that can be read here.

And of course before one goes a-lobbying one needs reports! Written by experts! And experts don’t come cheap, but they will provide proposals with estimates of the costs, and here are the two the BID obtained:

And based on these estimates, the South Park BID determined that it needed $80,000 to begin the report-making process. And for whatever reason, they also determined that they were only going to pay $5,000 themselves. The rest, saith the BID, they were going to raise from developers and maybe some other BIDs Downtown. And the story of this whole mess, told, as usual, in excruciating detail via transcriptions of emails, can be found after the break!
Continue reading The South Park BID Solicited — Or Extorted — Donations Totalling $80,000 From Developers To Pay For Some Studies They Wanted Done — In Return The BID Sent Staffers To City Council Committee Meetings To Give Public Comment In Favor Of The Developers’ Projects — Using Talking Points Supplied By The Developers — Money Well Spent For The Developers I’m Guessing Since Councilmembers Probably Won’t Approve Projects BIDs Oppose — This Is One Way In Which The Illusion Of Community Buy-In Is Created And Maintained In Los Angeles — One Of The Developers Involved Was Lightstone Group — Whose Lobbyists Are Also Being Investigated In Relation To José Huizar — Because Of Course They Are

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First Look At Emails From Mitch O’Farrell’s Secret Gmail Account! — Fascinating Material! — For Instance Registered Lobbyist James Litz Emailed Him There In April 2018 Attempting To Influence Today’s AirBnB Vote! — While Losers Like You And Me And The Rest Of Us Had To Email Him At His Probably Unattended City Email Address — And A Bunch More Stuff Besides! — Oh, Did I Mention That O’Farrell Chief Of Staff Jeanne Min Is A Big Whiny-Baby?

OK, remember that our friends over at the Hollywood Sunshine Coalition discovered recently that CD13 repster Mitch O’Freaking Farrell has a top secret Gmail account that he uses to conduct City business? And remember how they sent CD13 a CPRA request asking for all public records in this account? And remember how Mitch O’Farrell’s fairly sinister chief of staff, Jeanne Min, was all like no way, friend, go pound sand? And then the brave and untrammeled souls over at the Coalition were all like, way, friend, if sand is to be pounded, you pound it!

Well, apparently some part of that message got through to Ms. Jeanne Min, cause evidently yesterday CD13 supplied HSC with a bunch of emails! And they passed them to us!1 And in the typically passive aggressive attitude that the City of LA adopts when complying with CPRA requests the PDFs had pages randomly rotated, interspersed with random blank pages, and so on, making them fairly unreadable. But I’m a whiz with PDFs and I cleaned them all up and published them on Archive.Org right here so you can read all 101 pages of them. Here’s a link straight through to the clean PDF and the original files are also available so you can compare if you’re interested.

And there is a ton of good stuff even just in this small selection. I aim to write at least three more posts highlighting various aspects of it, and I’m sure if you read through it you’ll find gems that completely escaped my notice. The episode you’re reading now is particularly timely, given that it has to do with today’s contentious vote on AirBnB regulation. Did you have an opinion on that? Did you communicate your opinion to your Council rep? Well, you didn’t get to communicate it as well as some people did!

It seems that on April 27, 2018 James W. Litz, then working for the sinister-sounding Beverly Hills/Greater Los Angeles Association of Realtors, and himself a lobbyist registered with the City Ethics Commission, sent an email to the usual list of public-facing Councilfolk email addresses ending with lacity.org telling all of them that his employer, the BHGLAAR, supported the AirBnB regulations proposed in CF 14-1635-S2 as long as they didn’t let people living in rent stabilized units rent out their homes and let building owners forbid their tenants from participating if they wanted to. This email is transcribed after the break.

And then, certainly because as you yourself have no doubt suspected, nobody actually reads a damn thing that comes in to those “councilmember.wtf@lacity.org” addresses, less than two minutes later James W. Litz turned around and forwarded the email to Mitch O’Farrell at the secret Gmail address, which is to say mitchof13@gmail.com, with a personal note:
Continue reading First Look At Emails From Mitch O’Farrell’s Secret Gmail Account! — Fascinating Material! — For Instance Registered Lobbyist James Litz Emailed Him There In April 2018 Attempting To Influence Today’s AirBnB Vote! — While Losers Like You And Me And The Rest Of Us Had To Email Him At His Probably Unattended City Email Address — And A Bunch More Stuff Besides! — Oh, Did I Mention That O’Farrell Chief Of Staff Jeanne Min Is A Big Whiny-Baby?

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An Interesting Example From Wilshire Center Showing How Eric Garcetti Used The BID To Supply A Tame Businessperson To Speak For Herb Wesson’s Proposed K-Town Homeless Shelter — Revealing At Least One Of The Ways In Which The City Of Los Angeles Relies On BIDs To Manufacture An Appearance Of Community Support For Its Projects — Did I Mention The City Told The BID A Week Before They Told The News Media And Asked The BID To Keep Quiet About It?!

It’s been clear for a long time now that one of the uses that the City gets out of BIDs is to encourage them to lobby it, thus creating an appearance of community support for projects that the City intended to do all along. It’s easy to see the results of this process at any City Council meeting where a bunch of BIDdies line up to speak in favor of random proposal X that they don’t have any organic reason for caring about.

However, it’s not so easy to see the lead-up to the lobbying events. Obviously City officials are reluctant to release the evidence, and perhaps the BIDdies are as well.1 That’s why today’s documents are so very interesting! The emails I’m presenting are part of a larger release from the Wilshire Center BID, and you can get the original MBOX file or PDFs if you prefer here on Archive.Org.

The story is about the by-now famous homeless shelter proposed for Koreatown by CD10 repster Herb Wesson. The world found out about this project on May 2, 2018 at a joint press conference held by Wesson and Eric Garcetti, as Gale Holland explains in this characteristically excellent story in the Times.2

But amazingly, City staffers told the BID about the proposal on April 26, a full week before anyone else knew. BID board members were asked to keep quiet about it and also to propose a businessperson to speak at the May 2 press conference in support of the shelter. Real Estate zillionaire Mike Hakim volunteered himself to speak at BID director Mike Russell’s request but was, it seems, ignored by everyone, no doubt due to his shady, universally hated skyscraper project in Koreatown.

Instead, Mike Russell nominated Greenbridge Investments flunky Brenda Arianpour, a real estate zillionaire whom Russell misrepresented as a small business owner. After thorough vetting by Garcetti’s communications flacks, Arianpour was chosen to speak in favor of the project. Although not, of course, to speak in her own unscrutinized words. Garcetti’s flacks were sure to discuss “talking points” with her in advance.

The emails by which this was arranged are linked to and transcribed below.
Continue reading An Interesting Example From Wilshire Center Showing How Eric Garcetti Used The BID To Supply A Tame Businessperson To Speak For Herb Wesson’s Proposed K-Town Homeless Shelter — Revealing At Least One Of The Ways In Which The City Of Los Angeles Relies On BIDs To Manufacture An Appearance Of Community Support For Its Projects — Did I Mention The City Told The BID A Week Before They Told The News Media And Asked The BID To Keep Quiet About It?!

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In December 2016 Carol Schatz Arranged For Lobbyist Laura Mecoy To Ghostwrite Anti Street Vending Talking Points For Studio City Neighborhood Council Representative Barry Johnson, Who Was Appearing Before The Public Works Committee To Give A CIS — Although Potentially Illegally — Demonstrating Infiltration Of Neighborhood Councils By The Zillionaire Power Elite And Their Lobbyists And Minions To A Hitherto Unsuspected Degree

At least since 2015 a vast coalition of business improvement districts along with the Schatzian nightmare horror show known as the Central City Association have been fighting, clawing, hissing, and paying lots and lots and lots of money to counter any inclination our pusillanimous City Council might have towards creating even minimal legal space for street vendors to ply their life-affirming trade in the City of Los Angeles.

As part of this conspiracy, and even though the CCA essentially does nothing but lobby the City of Los Angeles, the BIDdies and their minions and allies hired a bunch of outside lobbyists to help fight their weirdo battle. One of these ringers was Laura Mecoy, who hooked them up with the LA Times editorial board and then had some trouble getting paid by the BIDdies for her work.

And all of a sudden, here’s Laura Mecoy again! Very recently I received a copy of this fascinating email chain, and here’s what it reveals!1 It seems that on December 8, 2016, Rita Villa of the Studio City Neighborhood Council got in touch with Carol Schatz about an upcoming hearing of a Council committee at which street vending would be discussed.2 They were evidently trying to coordinate on who was going to attend the meeting to make sure the fascist viewpoint was heard.

Villa mentioned that our old friend Mr. John Walker of the Studio City BID couldn’t make it, and some other names about were bandied. Eventually Rita Villa arranged for Barry Johnson to attend, and Carol Schatz asked lobbyists Laura Mecoy and Fred Muir to write some talking points for Barry Johnson, which Laura Mecoy cheerfully did!

And there’s nothing at all interesting in the talking points.3 It’s the same old “one-size-does-not-fit-all we-respectfully-request-opt-in-please” jive-ass crapola that we’re used to out of these people. The interest in this episode is entirely in the effort that Carol Schatz and her hired lobbyists are putting into shaping the narrative coming out of the mouth of someone who’s putatively speaking for a neighborhood council.
Continue reading In December 2016 Carol Schatz Arranged For Lobbyist Laura Mecoy To Ghostwrite Anti Street Vending Talking Points For Studio City Neighborhood Council Representative Barry Johnson, Who Was Appearing Before The Public Works Committee To Give A CIS — Although Potentially Illegally — Demonstrating Infiltration Of Neighborhood Councils By The Zillionaire Power Elite And Their Lobbyists And Minions To A Hitherto Unsuspected Degree

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Echo Park BID Formation Process Rolls On, With Economic Development Committee Just Yesterday, At Behest Of CD13 Rep Mitch O’Freaking Farrell, Recommending Allocation Of God Only Knows How Much Money To Civitas To Complete The Establishment Process

It’s been almost two years now since our esteemed City Council breathed new life into the inchoate Echo Park BID in May 2016 in response to a letter from the Echo Park Chamber of Commerce, who is apparently the BID proponent group for this mishegas. Well, that infusion of cash into its zombie veins apparently wasn’t enough to send it lurching off into what passes for the civic life of this fair but wounded City of ours.

Thus, evidently, CD13 rep Mitch O’Freaking Farrell found it necessary a few weeks ago to move in Council that the BID formation contract with Civitas Advisors, who’s acting as the BID consultant,1 be extended.2 Yesterday, the Economic Development Committee approved3 Mitchie’s motion and sent a report to the full Council for their sadly inevitable approval.

The original Echo Park BID formation materials are collected in CF 10-0154 and for all this contract extension voodoo they started a supplemental, which is at CF 10-0154-S1. Turn the page for a transcription of O’Farrell’s motion from February 27 as well as of an interesting selection from the Committee’s report which sheds some light on where things stand.

Continue reading Echo Park BID Formation Process Rolls On, With Economic Development Committee Just Yesterday, At Behest Of CD13 Rep Mitch O’Freaking Farrell, Recommending Allocation Of God Only Knows How Much Money To Civitas To Complete The Establishment Process

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Lobbyists Are Made, Not Born — How Carol Schatz, The Zillion Dollar Queen Of Downtown, Is Raising Up Her Newly Anointed Little Princess Jessica Lall In The Methods And Practices Of The Influence-Peddling Trade

Yesterday I loosed mere anarchy on the world in the form of about 3500 emails between the Downtown Center BID and the seething stew of evil goop known to the world as the Central City Association. The release came in two parts, the unredacted and also the redacted.

Now, I know that not everyone in the world is obsessed with these BIDdies as I am, so let me just remind you all that in September 2016, Queen of Downtown and Zillion Dollar Woman Carol Schatz retired from her lofty post as supreme commanderette of the CCALA. She subsequently anointed the former big bad bossietta of the South Park BID, Jessica Lall, as Princess of Downtown and Schatz’s successorette at CCALA, effective January 3, 2017.

With this background in mind it turns out that this little gem from February 6, 2017, is not, by far, the least interesting item in the new release. In short, what happened is that on January 13, 2017, just ten days after she assumed the throne, Jessica Lall made an appointment to go to City Hall on February 9, 2017 with Carol Schatz, presumably to get shown the ropes and be introduced personally to the tame Councilpets by the master Counciltamer herself.

Of course, February 9, 2017 was a Thursday, which revealed Jessica Lall to be the inexperienced ignoramus that everyone Downtown mostly knew that she was.1 Carol Schatz, though, as much as this faux pas might have made her wish she’d elevated anybody but Ms. Jessica Lall to the crown, gritted her teeth and decided to teach her error-prone little protégé a lesson. Fortunately for us and for history, she did this via an email.

Now, if you are, as I am, a normal human being, those last sentences may well be completely unintelligible to you. Turn the page for transcriptions of everything along with the details of why you should never go to City Hall on a Thursday and how Carol Schatz schooled the newly-minted Princess in the inscrutable folkways of those who are paid to influence!
Continue reading Lobbyists Are Made, Not Born — How Carol Schatz, The Zillion Dollar Queen Of Downtown, Is Raising Up Her Newly Anointed Little Princess Jessica Lall In The Methods And Practices Of The Influence-Peddling Trade

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Ethics Commissioner Serena Oberstein’s Undisclosed Ex Parte Communication With Lobbyists Shyaam Subramanian and Nancy Berlin In Hallway Fifteen Minutes Before Ethics Commission Meeting Casts Some Doubt On Everyone’s Commitment To Transparency

Shyaam Subramanian and Nancy Berlin talking to Ethics Commissioner Serena Z. Oberstein in the hallway before Tuesday’s Ethics Commission meeting. She thanked them for giving her language, presumably to do with the MLO, and actually took notes on it in her phone. Click to enlarge.

In August the Ethics Commission continued the multiyear discussion about revising the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. The next stage in the process was three interested persons’ meetings held in September, and then on to more discussion at yesterday’s Ethics Commission meeting. The meeting was essentially interminable,1 and I recorded the whole lobbying discussion. You can watch it either on Archive.Org or on YouTube:

Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IV •.

Ethics Commissioner Serena Z. Oberstein taking notes on “language” provided to her by lobbyists Shyaam Subramanian and Nancy Berlin. Click to enlarge.

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.

There, I was lucky enough to witness lobbyists2 Shyaam Subramanian of Bolder Advocacy and Nancy Berlin of CalNonprofits engaged in an intense conversation with Ethics Commissioner Serena Z. Oberstein about proposed revisions to the MLO involving nonprofit corporations, whose interests both of them are compensated to represent to the City. At one point she even thanked them for giving her “language,” presumably having to do with their preferred outcome in the upcoming meeting, and went so far as to take notes on it in her phone!
Continue reading Ethics Commissioner Serena Oberstein’s Undisclosed Ex Parte Communication With Lobbyists Shyaam Subramanian and Nancy Berlin In Hallway Fifteen Minutes Before Ethics Commission Meeting Casts Some Doubt On Everyone’s Commitment To Transparency

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Video Of Third Interested Persons’ Meeting Now Available, Featuring Among Other Things Some Exceptionally Whiny Non-Profits Whose Whole Argument Against Regulation Seems To Be That The Ethics Commission Is Strapping Extra Pianos To Their Back Just Like Donald Trump Does To Poor People, Conveniently Forgetting The Fact That Nonprofit Status Is A Huge Freaking Public Subsidy

No doubt you recall that the Los Angeles Ethics Commission is presently working on proposing revisions to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance (MLO) and that part of the process has been to hold a bunch of meetings to gather input. I recorded the first of these, which turned out to be quite interesting. The second focused on neighborhood councils and I’m working on obtaining an audio recording of it.

The third meeting focused on nonprofit organizations that lobby the City. I wasn’t able to make it, but fortunately for all of us, it was recorded by Bobby Buck, a brave citizen journalist. He posted his recording on YouTube for all to watch and listen. The main issue under discussion here is which 501(c)(3) organizations will be exempt from the registration and disclosure requirements of the MLO. Currently the law at §48.03(E) presently exempts 501(c)(3)s from the requirements if they receive:

… funding from any federal, state or local government agency for the purpose of representing the interests of indigent persons and whose primary purpose is to provide direct services to those persons, if the individual or individuals represented by the organization before any City agency provide no payment to the organization for that representation.

The Ethics Commission staff is proposing1 that this be tightened up to exempt only:

501(c)(3) organizations that receive government funding and are created primarily to provide basic life assistance to disadvantaged clients at a rate that is significantly below market (and their employees engaged in the same activity).

The meeting is more than 90 minutes of the usual bitching and moaning, and I’ll write on various episodes as I have time. Tonight’s installment concerns these comments by yet another genius, this one from the Inner City Law Center, who thinks that just because he claims to be doing good in the world no one really has the right to question anything he says or does, let alone subject his organization to any kind of registration or disclosure requirements.2 Turn the page for a transcription of some of his remarks and some commentary.
Continue reading Video Of Third Interested Persons’ Meeting Now Available, Featuring Among Other Things Some Exceptionally Whiny Non-Profits Whose Whole Argument Against Regulation Seems To Be That The Ethics Commission Is Strapping Extra Pianos To Their Back Just Like Donald Trump Does To Poor People, Conveniently Forgetting The Fact That Nonprofit Status Is A Huge Freaking Public Subsidy

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Experimental CPRA Request To San Francisco County Supervisor Aaron Peskin For Emails To/From Union Square BID Director Karin Flood On A Subject Found In Her Lobbying Disclosure Demonstrate The Utility Of Detailed Contact Reporting By Registered Lobbyists

One of the major issues in the currently ongoing process of revising this City’s Municipal Lobbying Ordinance has to do with the level of detail about their contacts with City officials that lobbyists should be required to disclose. Currently they don’t have to disclose much, but there’s a proposal on the table to require them to disclose each contact with a City official including which issue was discussed.

Naturally, the lobbyists hate this idea. Their big argument against it, which has, to their everlasting shame, been echoed by a number of Ethics Commissioners, is that this level of disclosure would require so much work that the entire lobbying industry in Los Angeles would be driven into bankruptcy. This, of course, is ridiculous, not least because, just for instance, our silicon-addled redheaded step-cousins up North in the City and County of San Francisco require precisely this information on their disclosure forms without, obviously, having driven the industry into the ground. It’s fascinating to look at these disclosures, by the way. Check out San Francisco’s lobbyist directory for links to all of it.1

And one of the major arguments in favor of requiring lobbyists to disclose each contact with a City official and the issue discussed is that it would facilitate requesting records of the City via the California Public Records Act, and thus promote transparency. This is a great argument in the abstract, but concrete arguments are always more persuasive.2 Oh, I forgot to mention it, but in San Francisco, BID staffers register as lobbyists, unlike in Los Angeles.3 So, in keeping with the blog’s BID theme, I thought I’d try out my little test on Karin Flood, executive directrix of San Francisco’s Union Square BID. Turn the page to find out what happened!
Continue reading Experimental CPRA Request To San Francisco County Supervisor Aaron Peskin For Emails To/From Union Square BID Director Karin Flood On A Subject Found In Her Lobbying Disclosure Demonstrate The Utility Of Detailed Contact Reporting By Registered Lobbyists

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Video Of First Interested Persons Meeting Now Available — See John Howland And Bill Delvac Discuss Whether Neighborhood Council Assent Is Necessary For Development Projects (TL,DR: Yes). This Revelation Makes BID Control Of DLANC Seem Even More Unsavory Than It Already Did

Yesterday afternoon the Ethics Commission held the first in a series of three meetings to gather even more input from interested parties concerning proposed revisions to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. I recorded the whole thing for posterity and you can watch it here:

I’ll be commenting on this and the next meeting1 from time to time, and today I just want to point out an interesting response from seasoned Los Angeles lobbyists John Howland and Bill Delvac2 to an interesting question from Ethics Commission ED Heather Holt. One of the proposals on the table is a requirement that lobbyists report attempts to influence neighborhood councils in addition to the other City agencies they’re already required to disclose information about. In the context of this discussion, Holt asked the lobbyists:

Just out of curiosity, for development projects, is there a general sense that you need a neighborhood council buy-in for it to go anywhere?

In response to this, über-düber lobbyist John Howland smirked and emitted an inarticulate snort, seemingly in disbelief that the boss of the Ethics Commission could ask such a silly question, before saying “yes.” This response was echoed by Bill Delvac, with Howland interjecting the occasional assent:

BD: We’re happy when we get to neutral.
JH: Yeah. Well, yeah.
BD:
[Unintelligible] … the Charter and the Code, they’re really not binding. But it matters more to some Councilmen [sic] than it does to others and often [unintelligible] you wanna get their support. I wouldn’t have written the Charter that way, but …

This interchange certainly supports the Ethics Commission’s proposal to subject lobbying directed at neighborhood councils to disclosure, and, interestingly, there didn’t seem to be any actual opposition to this proposal from the lobbyists. So maybe, no matter what gets compromised out of the rest of the proposals, this one will make it through the gauntlet, which is a good thing.3

And turn the page for a discussion of some potential implications, possibly as-yet unconsidered, of this proposal having to do with the fact that, probably uniquely among NCs, the DLANC has a ton of BID staffers on its board of directors.
Continue reading Video Of First Interested Persons Meeting Now Available — See John Howland And Bill Delvac Discuss Whether Neighborhood Council Assent Is Necessary For Development Projects (TL,DR: Yes). This Revelation Makes BID Control Of DLANC Seem Even More Unsavory Than It Already Did

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