You may recall that all-round heroine Jasmyne Cannick filed suit in federal court last December alleging that the LAPD and the City of LA had selectively prosecuted her for charges arising from 2014 protests about the Michael Brown situation in revenge for her outspoken criticism of the department. Well, it just recently came to my attention that Patti Beers, another well-known critic of the LAPD, who was also arrested and prosecuted1 under the same general circumstances, filed a suit against the City and various LAPD officials, at roughly the same time, in November 2016.
You may recall that in January 2016, Semhar Girmay Amha filed a suit in federal court against the City of Los Angeles for their illegal detention and surreally flagrant verbal abuse of her after the 2014 Michael Brown protests downtown. Here is my original article on the subject and all the interesting paper filed in the case is also available.
For a brief moment this morning, I was worried that it’s a bad thing that my coverage of the Pacific Palisades BID, initiated mainly because of a confluence of my interest in CD11 and the fact that the criminal intransigence of Mike Bonin’s staff has made it essentially impossible for me to get records directly from them, is tending fairly unexpectedly towards the navel-gaze, self-reference, point-is-to-understand-the-world, nerdview rather than towards the outward-looking, the-point-is-to-change-it focus which is somewhat of an ideal around here. That anxiety took me about 35 seconds to get over, so we’re going meta again this morning sans apologia.1
In any case, whatever her manifold faults as a CPRA client may be, Laurie Sale, executive directrix of the Palisades BID, is at least a reliable source of minutes and agendas. You may recall that she was previously kind enough to send me the PPBID’s 2016 minutes and agendas, and this weekend she sent me the 2017 minutes and agendas through February. There’s some interesting stuff in there, primarily about street vending, which I will write on quite soon. The minutes also suggest that CD11 field deputy Sharon Shapiro2 is an actual member of the PPBID’s Board of Directors. I’ll be looking into this, not least because it’s reminiscent of Debbie Dyner Harris’s ill-fated attempt to nab a voting seat for CD11 on the Board of the Venice Beach Property Owners Association, which was slapped down ignominiously by City Attorney Mike Feuer as a conflict of interest.
But never mind that for now. The text for today’s sermon is this little slab of nonsense, found in the BID’s minutes for February 1, 2017:
BID received requests for public records – copies of meeting minutes, agenda, emails back and forth within the City, etc. from a gentleman who is requesting this from many BIDs. Elliot made a motion to retain attorney not to exceed $4,000. Rick seconded, all approved, motion carried. In the event that this person wants copies made, then we need to request payment. Rick motioned: “we don’t want to make it difficult for him, but to rather provide him every access to public records according to the strictest rules of law so that it doesn’t provide any financial detriment to the property owners of our business improvement district.” Susan seconded. Unanimously approved, motion carries.
One requirement that the Property and Business Improvement District Law places on BIDs, found at §36650, is the submission of annual planning reports (“APRs”) to the City Council:
The owners’ association shall cause to be prepared a report for each fiscal year, except the first year, for which assessments are to be levied and collected to pay the costs of the improvements, maintenance, and activities described in the report. … The report shall be filed with the clerk … The city council may approve the report as filed by the owners’ association or may modify any particular contained in the report and approve it as modified.
And it seems that the BID isn’t allowed to spend money on stuff that’s not discussed in the APR, so it’s not a trivial matter.
The way this piece of code plays out in Los Angeles is that, first, a BID director submits the APR to the Clerk along with a formulaic cover letter. For instance, here is the one submitted by Nicole Shahenian on December 30, 2014 to accompany the East Hollywood BID’s APR for 2015. This is essentially the same letter submitted by all BIDs:
Dear Ms. Wolcott:
As required by the Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994, California Streets and Highways Code Section 36650, the Board of Directors of the East Hollywood Business Improvement District has caused this East Hollywood Business Improvement District Annual Planning Report to be prepared at its meeting of December 29, 2014.
And don’t forget that state law requires the City Council to adopt the report either with or without modifications. In Los Angeles this part of the process is initiated by the Clerk sending another form letter to City Council, recommending that they adopt the BID’s APR. It’s my impression that the Clerk doesn’t recommend modifications to the report at this stage. These seem to be handled by Miranda Paster before the APR is submitted to Council, as in this example involving the Media District BID. Anyway, take a look at Holly Wolcott’s January 14, 2015 recommendation to City Council with respect to the East Hollywood BID’s APR. Like every such document, this states:
The attached Annual Planning Report, which was approved by the District’s Board at their meeting on December 29, 2014, complies with the requirements of the State Law and reports that programs will continue, as outlined in the Management District Plan adopted by the District property owners.
And it goes on from there to recommend:
That the City Council:
FIND that the attached Annual Planning Report for the East Hollywood Property Business Improvement District’s 2015 fiscal year complies with the requirements of the State Law.
ADOPT the attached Annual Planning Report for the East Hollywood Property Business Improvement District’s 2015 fiscal year, pursuant to the State Law.
We’ve been discussing BID consultants a lot recently because of shadowy BID consultant Tara Devine and the fact that it looks so much like BID consultancy satisfies the LAMC’s definition of lobbying that it’s very likely that she broke the laws requiring registration, causing me, in the throes of a well-developed sense of civic duty, to report her transgressions to the Ethics Commission and then again to report some associated transgressions to Mike Feuer. What will come of these matters no one can now know, of course, but one aspect that troubled me slightly is the apparent novelty of the charges. That is, all the BID consultants I knew of at the time weren’t registered. This doesn’t mean they don’t have to register. After all, consider what happened with BID security and the Police Commission as a result of our reporting. But nevertheless, one never wants to be the first to make an argument if it’s possible to avoid it.
Friends, take a look at the exceedingly fascinating LAMC § 48.04(B). This lovely little slab of ethicalliciousness illegalizes any occasion when a lobbyist might:
Fraudulently deceive or attempt to deceive any City official with regard to any material fact pertinent to any pending or proposed municipal legislation.
And of course, you recall what a lobbyist is, it’s a technical term in this setting.1 Lobbyists are defined in LAMC §48.02 to be:
any individual who is compensated to spend 30 or more hours in any consecutive three-month period engaged in lobbying activities which include at least one direct communication with a City official or employee, conducted either personally or through agents, for the purpose of attempting to influence municipal legislation on behalf of any person.
The latest development is that the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council registered its opposition to this Kerry-Morrison-of-the-HPOA-inspired trainwreck of a motion with this eloquent statement:
A city ordinance banning adults from accessing a public playground/park area unless “accompanying a child” would unfairly penalize people by virtue of their age and deny them a public benefit afforded to others. The proposal, by its very nature, seems unduly discriminatory, and fraught with enforcement problems.
Instituting an overreaching policy by penalizing a vast majority of law‐abiding citizens in what is generally regarded as “park‐poor” city is counterintuitive. It seems to be motivated out of allaying a fear rather than ensuring a freedom. Nor does it currently contemplate the dozens of gray areas it will create regarding how it will be administered (playground boundaries, proof of age, proof‐of-guardianship, etc.), and the discord it will sow by awkward attempts to enforce it.
After a chaotic hearing on the Venice Beach BID in August,4 after Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles powerhouse attorney Shayla Myers pointed out that the process was legally flawed, and after City Attorney Mike Feuer accepted her argument and told the City Council that they’d better have a do-over, after all that, the rehearing on the abhorrent BID was scheduled to be approved considered in Council on November 8, 2016. This, of course, is also the day that Americans will be deciding the future of the world, which takes up a lot of time. Venice being Venice, there has been a lot of speculation about whether Bonin did this on purpose to make it difficult for detractors to testify. Venice also being Venice, there has been an organized effort to get Bonin to postpone the hearing.
This is just a quick announcement of some interesting new collections of records, with minimal commentary. First of all, there’s a collection of emails between City Attorney spokesman5 Rob Wilcox and various L.A. Times Reporters. You can get the whole batch here:
Also I have a full set of reports6 from the Bureau of Sanitation on the cleanups of three homeless encampments on March 22, 2016. It took almost three months for them to hand over this material, which won’t surprise anyone who’s been following my recent interactions with them. This is likewise available from:
I don’t presently have much to say about the sanitation reports. At this point I’m collecting as much material as possible in order to (a) figure out what kind of material is available so that I’ll be able to make focused, effective requests in the future, (b) learn what kinds of arguments they make against handing over records so that I can make focused, effective counterarguments against them, and (c) understand all the players in the HE7 game and the roles they’re playing. I hope to be able to synthesize all of this at some point, but meanwhile I want to make the records available because I know smarter people than I are also reading them.