Today’s story begins with a newly obtained email chain between CD11 staffer Debbie Dyner Harris and Venice walk-street resident Martha Hertzberg. Hertzberg is relentless and articulate in her questioning of Dyner Harris’s poorly argued assertions about the lack of a public component to the BID approval process, the damage that BIDs do to neighborhoods, and so on. Please read it, because it’s excellent, but too far off-topic for me to discuss at length. While you’re reading it, consider the interesting fact that, according to CD 11 Communications Director David Graham-Caso, Mike Bonin characterized Hertzberg’s position as based on a “…misunderstanding of the BID…”1 although it’s clear from the actual emails that it’s Dyner Harris and, by extension, all of CD11 that are the ones who either misunderstand the very nature of BIDs in Los Angeles or else are lying about what they’re up to.
Well, evidently Mike Bonin was following the exchange, because on July 20, 2016, Graham-Caso wrote to Dyner Harris under the subject line BID Messaging, directing her to
Give me a call to discuss this when you get a chance. Mike was worried that your note to Martha Hertzberg reinforced Martha’s misunderstanding of the BID and suggested something like the following:
Let me try to give some context and explanation of what business improvement districts are. Business improvement districts are a group of people voting on [blah de fooking blah blah blah] This allows residents of LA to benefit from private funding adding to public funding for public purposes. There are business improvement districts throughout Los Angeles, including downtown, Hollywood, San Fernando Valley, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, and three in Westchester.
Etc etc etc
At some point before August 2, 2016 that I haven’t yet been able to identify precisely, this list of communities that have BIDs, that’s supposed to show how harmless and wonderful and fuzzy-wuzzy-woo they are, got changed to:
…a wide and diverse range of communities, including in Downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Westchester, Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Canoga Park, Encino, Leimert Park, South Los Angeles, and Wilmington.
See the politics at play here? There are about three2 BIDs in LA in areas that are not predominately white and they are all listed in Bonin’s “messaging” and called out as “diverse.” The only reason Chinatown’s not included is that someone dropped the ball. Not only that, but even in majority non-white areas, BIDs are controlled by white people by design.3 Anyway, what has happened by this point is that Debbie Dyner Harris’s part in the original exchange of emails with Martha Hertzberg has morphed into a full-scale position statement.
Hence on August 2, Dyner Harris sent the nascent one-pager to Miranda Paster, head of the Neighborhood and Business Improvement District section at the LA City Clerk’s office, along with this plaintive note:
Hi Miranda, I hope you are doing well. There has been a lot of negative and incorrect information about the Venice BID floating around lately and we wanted to put more accurate info out. I wanted to run this by you to make sure we have our facts correct. If you can get back to me today that would be awesome. Thanks!
Now, despite the fact that everyone at the City claims to be neutral on BID formation, this is not especially out of line. Take a look here at Miranda Paster’s job description where it explains that she:
Implements public information campaigns and outreach programs to enlighten the public and property owners of the benefits of assessment districts. Provides comprehensive legislative assistance to the Mayor and Council. … Provides extensive public relations assistance; controls verbal and written responses to complex and sensitive requests received from elected officials, taxpayers, and the general public.
And that’s what she’s doing. But what is one to make of her editing of the list of BID localities, in which she removed Brentwood, replaced it with San Pedro, and stated without further explanation “Wouldn’t mention Brentwood.” Really, what’s up with that? Why is Brentwood off-message? Especially when the Palisades somehow is an OK entry on the list. Is there really a discernible difference between Brentwood and the Palisades with respect to diversity and what-not? Please tell me if you understand what this is about.
Anyway, in the long and disconcerting history of the City of Los Angeles pushing BIDs in every possible way this is not an especially important episode. But it is interesting, and it shows the level of detail at which the City operates in its ongoing crusade to minimize criticism of BIDs, to dishonestly undermine anti-BID arguments, and generally to lie about everything to do with BIDs.
Image of David Graham-Caso is a public record and I got it here.
- See the next paragraph for a citation.
- This number is a rhetorically motivated estimate. Probably the real number is more like six.
- This is even true in South Los Angeles. Just look e.g. at the South Los Angeles Industrial Tract BID, about which I have next to no information because they’re so secretive; they’re like the North Korea of BIDs in LA. I’m working on it, though.