Mitch O’Farrell Deserves Any Amount Of Bad Press For Sucking Up To Kerry Morrison About Kids And Adults In Playgrounds But The Recent L.A. Times Editorial And Subsequent Internet Freakout Criticizing Him Are Kind Of Off Base

Mitch O’Farrell in a strip-mall somewhere yelling about something.
Our work on Selma Park has been getting a lot of action over the last couple days since the L.A. Times published this editorial criticizing a recent motion of O’Farrell’s. The Times puts it thus:

City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell has proposed barring adults unaccompanied by children from entering playgrounds. It’s an effort, he said, to keep city parks “free of creepy activity.” Who wouldn’t want to ban creepy activity or creepy people from playgrounds?

This editorial prompted a massive ongoing freakout on Reddit, followed by O’Farrell’s feckless denial on Twitter and moving from there to a blog post by the incomparable Lenore Skenazy, then on to Slate, and then everywhere. And the way the Times describes the issue is certainly frightening:

But what O’Farrell is proposing goes far beyond targeting worrisome activities that, in most cases, are already outlawed. It would bar any adult from sitting on a bench, exercising or otherwise enjoying public space near
[a] playground unless he or she brought a child along. Is this really necessary?

One of the legitimate, Recreation and Parks Commission approved, signs at Selma Park stating that use of the playground is restricted to children and caregivers. The sign cites LAMC 83.44 and Penal Code section 653g, neither of which actually exists.
According to the Times, Mitch O’Farrell proposed this motion because Hollywood residents complained about drug dealers in some park. But Mitch O’Farrell is famous for confusing Kerry Morrison and her dimwit BID buddies with residents of Hollywood. He thinks they’re his constituents even though none of them live in Hollywood. He’s made this error with respect to tour bus regulation, and also street characters, and also Hollywood nightclubs. In each of these cases, “Hollywood residents” has turned out to be code for “Kerry Morrison.”

So even though I don’t yet have documentary evidence to back it up, my best guess is that this story about Hollywood residents complaining about a park is O’Farrell-speak for something like the following chain of events: Kerry Morrison and her armed flunky Steve Seyler bitched and moaned about the HPOA’s illegal signs being removed from Selma Park.1 O’Farrell then probably asked the City Attorney how to ban grownups from the park again. Probably the City Attorney told him at that point that it wasn’t possible, because it’s not, and probably it also came up at this point that the City’s official signs banning adults without kids from actual demarcated playgrounds were really outdated, given that neither LAMC 83.44 nor Penal Code section 653g actually exist.

Of course, not only is it certainly illegal to cite people for violating repealed laws, but it’s almost certainly illegal for the City to post signs threatening to cite people for violating them in order to keep them out of places that they legally have the right to be. So Kerry Morrison and Mitch O’Farrell, faced with the possibility of the removal of even the official signs,2 settled, I’m thinking, on the very motion that is currently undergoing two minutes hate from the Internet.

And the motion the Internet is hating on is a scary thing indeed. But it’s not the motion O’Farrell actually made. In its entirety the real motion says:3

In order to provide for a safe environment in our children’s playgrounds, the City should limit access to children and parents or guardians accompanying a child. Other municipalities have adopted similar laws to enhance child safety and provide law enforcement officers and the public with clear regulations as to who may be present in a children’s playground.

I THEREFORE MOVE that the Office of the City Attorney, with the assistance of the Department of Recreation and Parks, be requested to prepare and present a draft ordinance that limits access to a children’s playground within a City park to children and parents or guardians accompanying a child.

I FURTHER MOVE that the Department of Recreation and Parks post signage at children’s playgrounds subject to the new law.

I FURTHER MOVE that the Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners be requested to consider and act on the proposed ordinance.

Note how this motion is only about children’s playgrounds. If this means anything, it certainly means those areas that are already designated as children’s playgrounds. That’s why it says it’s about children’s playgrounds within a City park. In other words, this motion would almost certainly do nothing more than legitimize the signs that are already up on children’s playgrounds. And almost certainly those signs are presently being enforced, because that’s what happens with such signs. But there’s no actual law backing up the enforcement, and that’s a serious problem.

So O’Farrell’s law, or a law like it, either needs to be passed or the signs need to come down. Those are the only real choices. Mitch O’Farrell is a feckless idiot slave of Kerry Morrison, it’s true, and he ought to be criticized, mocked, and voted out of office for that fact, certainly. But this motion of his won’t do anything but legitimize the status quo, against which no one was protesting last month, or for the decades that these illegal signs have been up. There’s no legitimate reason to criticize him for this now.4 It won’t restrict access to parks more than it’s already restricted, and it might head off a lawsuit or two.5

Image of Mitch O’Farrell is a public record. Image of sign at Selma Park is ©2015

  1. This is consistent with Kerry Morrison’s hapless little Twitter suck-up to Mitchie.
  2. And don’t forget this is all speculation at this point, OK?
  3. This is Council File 16-1456.
  4. There is an illegitimate reason, though. It would be lovely were the protests, no matter how off base, to sink the motion, and at this point that might actually happen. Then the City’s illegal signs stay up, and maybe Carol Sobel or one of the heroes of the Los Angeles Legal Aid Foundation can sue the City and the freaking BID Patrol back to the stone age for arresting someone for violating imaginary laws against being in a playground. It’s a nice fantasy, ain’t it?
  5. The City richly deserves to get sued for this nonsense, of course.

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