Tag Archives: San Francisco

Los Angeles Ethics Commissioners Fail To Understand Their Powers And Duties Under The City Charter And Thereby Inadvertently (??) Set The Stage For Exempting Nearly All 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Organizations In Los Angeles From The Municipal Lobbying Ordinance

It seems like forever now, although it’s only been two years, that the Los Angeles Ethics Commission has been discussing proposed changes to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance (MLO). At this point I just don’t have it in me to summarize the discussion any more, although you can find links to most of my posts on the subject in this post on the penultimate phase of the matter.

At the Commission’s meeting on Tuesday, which you can watch in its entirety right here (or here on Archive.Org if you prefer), there were only two matters left to settle. One was the issue of detailed reporting of contacts between lobbyists and City Officials. I hope to write on what happened with that later on. The other, and the subject of today’s post, had to do with exemptions from the MLO for 501(c)(3) nonprofits. You can watch the whole discussion beginning here. These organizations enjoy some exemptions now by virtue of LAMC §48.03(E,F). You can read the statute for yourself, but essentially it exempts 501(c)(3)s1 which have “… the purpose of representing the interests of indigent persons and whose primary purpose is to provide direct services to those persons…”

As they are wont to do, the staff, in the persons of Director of Policy Arman Tarzi and Mark Low, head of the lobbying program, provided the Commission with a detailed set of recommendations. There were four different options given that had to do with nonprofits, which you can read in the proposal. Of these, three were developed by staff and the fourth2 was provided by nonprofits and proposed to exempt all nonprofits, no matter what they do, which have gross annual receipts of under $2.5 Million.

Never content to leave well enough alone, these hyperorganized nonprofits presented the Commission with a so-called “Option 5,” which they circulated at the meeting. This option proposed to modify LAMC §48.03(E) to exempt from the MLO:

E. Any organization exempt from federal taxation pursuant to Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code that:
1. Provides assistance, such as food, clothing, shelter, child care, health, legal, vocational, relief, educational, and other similar assistance to disadvantaged people for free or at a significantly below-market rate; OR
2. Has gross receipts of less than $2.5 million.
This exemption also applies to the organization’s employees and board members while engaged in official duties. This exemption does not apply when an organization is seeking funding, property, or a permit from the City on its own behalf.

Continue reading Los Angeles Ethics Commissioners Fail To Understand Their Powers And Duties Under The City Charter And Thereby Inadvertently (??) Set The Stage For Exempting Nearly All 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Organizations In Los Angeles From The Municipal Lobbying Ordinance

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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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Ethics Commission To Hold Three Meetings Starting Next Week (September 7, 9, 13) To Gather More Input On Revision Of Municipal Lobbying Ordinance — Please Come To Comment!

City Hall is always being built and rebuilt, and we might as well lend a hand. Never forget that the stone that the builder rejected is become the head of the corner!
Maybe you recall that the Policy Staff of the City Ethics Commission is in the process of proposing revisions to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. The proposals were discussed at length at the Commission’s August 15 meeting and, after a bunch of self-serving and mostly mendacious public commentary from a bunch of lobbyists, the Commissioners basically, disgracefully, took the position that even though the staff had been seeking input on the proposals for 18 months, the lobbyists needed even more time to weigh in.

So in furtherance of this ridiculous but nevertheless not-to-be-ignored directive from the Commission, the Policy staff, led by the heroic and long-suffering Arman Tarzi, has scheduled three so-called interested persons meetings to gather even more input. If you were at the meeting you’ll have noticed that mostly only lobbyists commented.1 The Policy staff sent out an email tonight announcing these meetings, and here they are, along with instructions for attending:

  • Thursday, September 7, 2017. 1:30pm – 3:30pm. City Hall, Room 1060 — This meeting is for a general discussion of the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance.
  • Saturday, September 9, 2017. 9:25am – 12:00pm. (Precise time & room TBD) — This meeting is also for a general discussion of the MLO. It is being held as part of the Congress of Neighborhood Councils and it is necessary to register for it separately.
  • Wednesday, September 13, 2017. 10:00am – 12:00pm. City Hall, Room 1070. — This meeting is to focus on input from the nonprofit community.

The Policy staff request that you RSVP for any of these meetings you plan to attend at ethics.policy@lacity.org. If you can’t attend a meeting you can also email your comments to the same address.

I hope to attend the first two, and I really hope that you and/or your friends can too. These revisions of the MLO are essential for improving government transparency and accountability in the City of Los Angeles, and if we let the lobbyists obstruct or eviscerate them, we’ll all be the worse for it. Turn the page for some links to and brief discussions of some of the essential issues.
Continue reading Ethics Commission To Hold Three Meetings Starting Next Week (September 7, 9, 13) To Gather More Input On Revision Of Municipal Lobbying Ordinance — Please Come To Comment!

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Long Beach Police Department (Partially) Fulfills Experimental CPRA Request in 142 Days

This is what I miss the most about Long Beach.
This is what I miss the most about Long Beach.
Long-time readers of this blog will recall that, due to the stunning reluctance of the LAPD to comply with the simple mandates of the California Public Records Act (which has led to at least one lawsuit against them, filed by the heroic Stop LAPD Spying Coalition), I’m running an experiment in which I requested 100 emails to and from BIDs from each of three California police departments (which comes to an end with this latest development).

The SFPD was the only one to actually comply with the law but the Berkeley PD didn’t do so badly. This morning I finally received a (partial) response to my request to the Long Beach PD, and you can read the yield here. There’s nothing really that interesting here; just more homelessness and back-slapping.
Continue reading Long Beach Police Department (Partially) Fulfills Experimental CPRA Request in 142 Days

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Berkeley Police Department Fulfills Experimental CPRA Request in 59 Days

Anymore, the astonishing beauty of the city of Berkeley is only skin deep.
Anymore, the astonishing beauty of the city of Berkeley is only skin deep.
Long-time readers of this blog will recall that, due to the stunning reluctance of the LAPD to comply with the simple mandates of the California Public Records Act, I’m running an experiment in which I requested 100 emails to and from BIDs from each of three California police departments. The SFPD was the clear winner here, supplying me with the goods in a mere 23 days. Late last week the city of Berkeley weighed in with two sets of emails (one and two). Most of the content isn’t especially interesting if you don’t know the dramatis personae; it’s the same old song about the homeless, about behaviors, about activities, about protecting investments, and so on and on and on. I did spot one interesting episode, which I discuss after the break. Also, I will note that the Long Beach PD still has not fulfilled my request (although they are discussing it with me), and of course the LAPD ignores everyone and they’re still being sued because of that. Is it a coincidence that the two cities that follow the law have municipal sunshine ordinances while the two that do not lack such laws? I doubt it very much.
Continue reading Berkeley Police Department Fulfills Experimental CPRA Request in 59 Days

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Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and National Lawyers Guild LA File Suit Against City of LA Over Egregious LAPD CPRA Violations–Court Papers Available Here

The logo of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition
The logo of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition
On December 22, 2015, the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and the hyperactive-in-a-good-way National Lawyers Guild LA filed suit in LA Superior Court against the City of Los Angeles because of egregious violations of the California Public Records Act. According to Pete White of the LA Community Action Network, the LAPD needs to “…know they need to—at a minimum—follow the laws…they tell us we need to follow.” I got copies of everything that’s been filed to date and put it all in a directory here. There’s not so much, but the initial complaint is a monster, weighing in at 180 pages. Most of that is exhibits, including a lengthy U.S. Senate report on Homeland Security funding of and involvement in domestic police spying operations and a copy of a “Special Order” authorizing an ongoing LAPD spying program and a bunch of other documents. The LAPD stuff starts on page 125 of the PDF. I’ll separate and post the various documents individually when I have time. Anyway, the petition has an excellent introduction outlining the public’s interest in the records that the group is seeking and a very tidy summary of what I know from personal experience is the maddening stubborn inactivity of the LAPD in the face of the transcendently clear mandate of the CPRA to respond to requests within 10 days. My only quibble is that I wish they’d also mentioned the LAPD’s absolute and illegal refusal to provide copies of records that they hold in electronic formats, e.g. email, in those electronic formats rather than printing them out on paper and redacting them with a marker. But they know the law and its ways better than I, so I’ll hush up about it.
Continue reading Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and National Lawyers Guild LA File Suit Against City of LA Over Egregious LAPD CPRA Violations–Court Papers Available Here

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Kerry Morrison Tries, Fails, to Serve Two Masters, Unfolding Events Yield Two Pressing Reasons for Her to Resign from LAHSA Immediately

Kerry Morrison chooses which of the two masters she's gonna love and, consequently, which she's gonna hate.
Kerry Morrison chooses which of the two masters she’s gonna love and, consequently, which she’s gonna hate.
In the last two weeks, two cataclysmic changes in the the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority‘s mission have made it, in not just our opinion but in the opinion of any sane observer, impossible for Kerry Morrison to ethically continue to serve as both a LAHSA Commissioner and the executive directrix of the HPOA. Since as of a few years ago she was earning $192,794 per annum1 from the HPOA we’re guessing it’s not that job she’s gonna quit. What happened is this: both the Los Angeles City Council and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are poised to ask LAHSA to (a) decide where across the city to locate service centers for the homeless and (b) to stop breaking up homeless encampments.
Kerry Morrison counting a homeless person, no doubt using the local methodology that "[f]ederal officials are disputing," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Kerry Morrison counting a homeless person, no doubt using the local methodology that “[f]ederal officials are disputing,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Unfortunately, Kerry’s masters on the BID Boards expect her to target the homeless for hyperenforcement even as they scoff at the very idea that homeless human beings have rights and, accordingly, she’s directed her flunkies (we’re talking about you, Steve Seyler) to arrest homeless people in encampments and for any other random thing that pops into their heads. She can’t ethically do both, for, as a wise man once said:2

No one can serve two masters, for either he
will hate the one and love the other; or else
he will be devoted to one and despise the
other. You can’t serve both God and Mammon.

Well, we’re not cynics, not at all, so we’re not going to predict what she’s going to do. We are, however, going to write much more about the choices she’s facing right below the fold!
Continue reading Kerry Morrison Tries, Fails, to Serve Two Masters, Unfolding Events Yield Two Pressing Reasons for Her to Resign from LAHSA Immediately

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In Rare Conflict with BID LAPD Deputy Chief Beatrice Girmala Exercises Totalitarian Veto Power over Private Real Estate Transactions in Hollywood, Insinuates that Protecting, Serving Homeless is Waste of LAPD Time

Exceedingly powerful LAPD officer Bea Girmala, pictured here with sidelong-glancing former Inglewood PD guy Steve Seyler who, we gotta admit, has nothing to do with this story, but here he is in the picture anyway.
Exceedingly powerful LAPD officer Bea Girmala, pictured here with sidelong-glancing former Inglewood PD guy Steve Seyler who, we gotta admit, has nothing to do with this story, but here he is in the picture anyway.
OK, listen up! Long-time readers1 of this blog will recall that in 2010 and 2011 the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition, the Media District BID, some LAPD folks, and some random neighborhood residents all engaged in a “mediation process” of some type, mostly aimed at getting the food coalition to move its nightly feeding program out of the BID. The whole document is well worth reading, stunning as it is vis–à–vis its truly astonishing level of crazy, but we’re focusing on just one episode. Let us now lay out the dramatis personæ.

First we have facilitator Peter Robinson, now at Pepperdine. We don’t have much to say about him except that, according to his Pepperdine bio, he’s got an excellent sense of humor. He’d have to have, wouldn’t he?

Official LAPD photo of Deputy Chief Girmala, cop extraordinaire and interferer-by-proxy in the private real estate dealings of citizens of Hollywood.
Official LAPD photo of Deputy Chief Girmala, cop extraordinaire and interferer-by-proxy in the private real estate dealings of citizens of Hollywood.

Second, we have then Hollywood Patrol Commanding Officer (now Deputy Chief) Beatrice Girmala,2 who, although not actually present at the moment about which we write, was nevertheless in control of everything that transpired in a way in which we, free citizens of a constitutional republic, do not expect to be associated with our police. We are certainly pragmatists, though, and understand that once the police can gun us down on the streets with impunity they can a fortiori randomly interfere in our lawful business dealings as well. Read on for the real crazy!
Continue reading In Rare Conflict with BID LAPD Deputy Chief Beatrice Girmala Exercises Totalitarian Veto Power over Private Real Estate Transactions in Hollywood, Insinuates that Protecting, Serving Homeless is Waste of LAPD Time

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Kerry Morrison Accuses Street Vending Proponents Collectively of “Almost Resembl[ing] a Circus,” Being “Completely Dysfunctional [and] Disrespectful,” and “Being Bused in,” Elides True Nature of Putative Coalition

Kerry Morrison at the July 9, 2015 meeting of the Joint Security Committee being the opposite of dysfunctional, disrespectful, and circus-like.
Kerry Morrison at the July 9, 2015 meeting of the Joint Security Committee looking mighty fed up with something while at the same time, of course, being nondysfunctional, nondisrespectful, and in no way resembling a circus.
We’ve written before about the HPOA’s crazed-and-at-the-mouth-foaming opposition to Councilmembers Huizar’s and Price’s proposed ordinance legalizing street vending in the city of Los Angeles. We’ve written about the HPOA’s scheme to send its agents to public meetings in the ill-concealed guise of concerned citizens opposing the ordinance. Today we report on Kerry Morrison’s recent discussion of her experience orchestrating that whole fiasco. We’ll analyze it line by line, and you can watch the whole thing here and/or read a transcription after the break.

there were a series of four hearings that the chief administrative office staff held on the… the sidewalk vending ordinance. … It’s just this kind of amorphous set of hearings, which were completely dysfunctional, disrespectful, and almost, um, resembled a circus.

This painting by Georges Seurat almost resembles a circus also, but, and this is a subtle point but sound, Cela ne veut pas un cirque.
This painting by Georges Seurat almost resembles a circus also, but, and this is a subtle point but sound, cela ne veut pas un cirque.

Kerry’s been on before about this issue, people not treating her agents provocateurs to what she delusorily imagines to be the duly appropriate level of forelock-tugging, although she hits a new high note1 here. We mean, we weren’t at the hearings, but it’s hard to imagine that they were dysfunctional. It’s easier to imagine that perhaps Kerry’s mistaken the purpose. It’s hard to see how a public hearing can be disrespectful without being told towards what or whom it’s disrespectful. Does she mean the hearing was disrespectful towards her minions? What is it that they’ve done to earn anyone’s respect? Perhaps she means something else. And as for the hearings “almost…resembl[ing] a circus,” well, we imagine that’s nothing more than the reaction of someone who has done her illegal best to make sure that the public doesn’t feel welcome at the meetings she’s the boss of to finding out that she’s not the boss of every meeting in Los Angeles and, just possibly, maybe not so welcome at all of them her own self.
Continue reading Kerry Morrison Accuses Street Vending Proponents Collectively of “Almost Resembl[ing] a Circus,” Being “Completely Dysfunctional [and] Disrespectful,” and “Being Bused in,” Elides True Nature of Putative Coalition

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