One of the most neglected aspects of the Property and Business Improvement District Act, the fons et origo of the state’s grant of authority to establish, regulate, and control BIDs, is a limitation found in §36625(a)(6), which states:
The revenue from the levy of assessments within a district shall not be used to provide improvements, maintenance, or activities outside the district or for any purpose other than the purposes specified in the resolution of intention, as modified by the city council at the hearing concerning establishment of the district.
This places two essential limitations on how BIDs are allowed to spend the money they collect from property owners.1 First, BIDs must only spend their money on stuff inside their districts, and second they must only spend it on activities specified in the resolution of intention to form the district. In the City of Los Angeles, at least, these activities are specified by incorporating the BID’s management district plan, which is filed with the City Council at some point prior to the BID’s formation, into the ordinance of intention.2
Now, if you follow this blog even half-heartedly, you’re well aware that this statute is completely flouted by BIDs in the City of Los Angeles. For instance, Blair Besten’s lobbying over Skid Row, which isn’t part of the Historic Core BID at all, not to mention Hurricane Kerry Morrison’s indefatigable lobbying everyone in the whole freaking universe over reforms to the Public Records Act.
And of course, all of them, every last delusional white supremacist BID in the whole freaking City of Los Angeles lobbying3 against Proposition 47, a particularly half-witted example of which can be found here. Which brings us to today’s subject, which is that squarmy little love child of Jeff Zarrinnam and David Miscavige known to the world as the East Hollywood BID.
It seems that at their upcoming meeting,4 at least according to the agenda, they’re poised to discuss the following item:
Presentation on the Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018…………….Michael Ziegler, Public Safety Consultant, Assemblymember Jim Cooper
And turn the page for details and discussion!
First of all, according to the Wiki, anyway, Jim Cooper is some kind of former cop, now Assemblymember, and he’s evidently sponsoring an initiative to roll back Prop 47 reforms because FREAKING CRIMINALS! And the BID is right up in there with the dude. This item comes with a bunch of powerpoint and other propaganda, which you can find here on the Archive or through these individual links:
According to the Initiative draft language, this proposition has three purposes:
- Reform the parole system so violent felons are not released early from prison, strengthen oversight of parolees, and tighten penalties for violations of terms of parole;
- Reform theft laws to restore accountability for serial thieves and organized theft rings; and
- Expand DNA collection from persons convicted of drug, theft and domestic violence related crimes to help solve violent crimes and exonerate the innocent.
And according to the Powerpoint thing on the initiative, these putative enhancements to putative public safety are somehow, in a way which no doubt makes sense to cops and their fluffers if no one else, intimately tied into expanding the death penalty in California. Now, obviously this is typical fascist cop-loving propaganda bullshit containing more lies than stars in the skies and if it passes it will be horrible for the state of California and will almost certainly lead to even more human suffering, not to mention renewed federal oversight and mandated releases from prison.
A detailed discussion of such matters, though, is beyond both the scope of this blog and my personal expertise.5 I’m just concentrating here on the intersection of the presence of this propaganda effort on the BID’s agenda with the limitations on BID activities imposed by the PBID law at §36625(a)(6).
In particular, there are two requirements which must be met before the BID can spend its money on this nonsense. Oh, before I get to the two requirements, let’s discuss what it means for BIDs to spend money. It’s my opinion6 that when the legislature inserted this statute section limiting how money could be spent, they were exercising the power of the purse.
That is, I think their intent must have been to control the activities of BID staff, who after all are paid out of assessment money, as well as actual direct expenditures. The argument is, therefore, that BID staff activities are covered under the law’s restrictions on how assessment money can be spent.7 Now on to the two requirements!
First of all, according to §36625(a)(6), [t]he revenue from the levy of assessments within a district shall not be used to provide improvements, maintenance, or activities outside the district. Second, the revenue may not be used for any purpose other than the purposes specified in the resolution of intention.8
Let’s look at the second one first. If you want to, you can take a look at the actual resolution of intention for the East Hollywood BID as passed by City Council in July 2011. It’s not that informative, though. As is typical for these things, the specified activities are dealt with by incorporating the so-called Management District Plan:
Sec. 8. IMPROVEMENTS AND ACTIVITIES. The City Council hereby declares that the proposed activities and improvements to be funded by the levy of assessments on property within the District are detailed in the Management District Plan. They include, but are not limited to, Streetscape and Landscape Projects, Maintenance, Administration and Advocacy, and Marketing and Promotion.
The Management District Plan is a requirement of the BID Law, which requires it at §36622. I don’t want to quote, because that particular section is super-technical and long, but essentially the MDP must contain, among many other things, a description of what’s to be done with the money. You can read the EHBID’s current MDP if you’re interested.9 Here’s what it has to say about advocacy, which I suppose is the only plausible category for the present nonsense:
The District’s administrative staff will represent the area in support of policies, initiatives and legislative actions that enhance the District’s ability to develop as a vibrant commercial area. The District will represent businesses in matters relating to alternative resources, effective land use, planning decisions, and economic development initiatives.
The only thing here that’s plausibly related to the BID’s support of this anti-Prop-47 initiative10 is the statement that “[t]he District’s administrative staff will represent the area in support of policies, initiatives and legislative actions that enhance the District’s ability to develop as a vibrant commercial area.” That is, this is the only statement in the MDP about anyone supporting policies, initiatives, and legislative actions. But they’re not proposing to support just any such things, they’re proposing only to support those “that enhance the District’s ability to develop as a vibrant commercial area.”
Now, I suppose that the case can be made that supporting a Prop 47 rollback “enhance[s] the District’s ability to develop as a vibrant commercial area,” but only in some broad, not all-that-convincing, sense. One might argue, e.g., that Prop 47 causes crime,11 that crime hinders vibrant12 commercialism, and thus that EHBID staff’s support of a Prop 47 rollback falls within the purview of the MDP as stated. Hold that thought.
Now let’s take a look at the first13 limitation on BID expenditure imposed by §36625(a)(6), that is, that “[t]he revenue from the levy of assessments within a district shall not be used to provide improvements, maintenance, or activities outside the district.” As before, it’s marginally plausible that the EHBID’s support of this anti-Prop-47 initiative affects conditions inside the district. The potential argument given above still works. But in this case I think that the statutory language precludes that argument.
That is, even though it’s true that state laws affect conditions inside a BID, they only do so in the broadest sense that everything in the world affects everything else in the world. For instance, if there’s a nuclear war, it would pretty much wipe out East Hollywood as a “vibrant commercial area.” Thus, the argument might go, the BID can spend its money lobbying against nuclear war. Nuclear war would inevitably be an activity inside the district.
Or, e.g., federal tax laws affect conditions in the district. If corporate taxes are cut essentially to zero it’ll give the property owners in the district more money to pay higher assessments, so why not spend BID money supporting Donald Trump for president? The same kind of reasoning could support BID expenditures on lobbying about, I don’t know, Mars colonization, bilingual education policy, foreign aid to Zambia, or whatever.
And this style of argument doesn’t just work for advocacy. After all, actual conditions outside the EHBID affect the economy inside it. What if there were a giant homeless encampment at the corner of Melrose and Juanita, which is just outside the BID’s boundaries?14 Would it not improve the situation of the properties right across the street from there in the BID if this encampment were to be eliminated? Does that idea not provide an argument for spending BID money on security to hassle the homeless just outside the BID’s borders, since their presence adversely affects conditions inside.
In fact, allowing such arguments essentially deprive the clause of any effect whatsoever. If these examples, including the Prop-47-rollback initiative, count as activities inside the district, then any expenditure counts as an expenditure inside the district. Whatever “inside the district” means, it cannot mean “has some effect inside the district.” If it did mean that the clause would have no effect on the application of the law. It could be removed without changing the meaning of the law.
And this, it turns out, violates one of the canons of statutory construction, namely the rule against surplusage, which states, according to the Wiki:
Where one reading of a statute would make one or more parts of the statute redundant and another reading would avoid the redundancy, the other reading is preferred.
If the removal of a clause from a statute fails to change the range of application of the statute, the clause is certainly redundant. Hence this clause can’t mean what it would be required to mean to validate any of the given arguments in favor of allowing BIDs to spend money lobbying on state-level initiatives and policies.
Anyway, that’s my argument. At some point I’ll have enough money and lawyers to test it out, and when I do I’ll certainly write about it here. Meanwhile, stay tuned, and maybe I’ll see you at the EHBID’s meeting on Tuesday!
- I’m ignoring business-based BIDs here. They’re not that important in Los Angeles and, probably for that reason, I have this feeling that the City Clerk’s office would like to convert them all to property-based BIDs. They certainly seem to discourage the formation of new business-based BIDs.
- The state law refers to the “resolution of intention” whereas the City of Los Angeles passes “ordinances of intention.” Probably this is just local jargon and thus of no real consequence.
- “Lobbying” is a particularly euphemistic term here. What these people do to express their opposition to Prop 47 is more akin to slavering at the mouth and throwing their own shit against the walls of their cells than it is to lobbying, but we told mom that we’d remain civil, and remaining civil is exactly what we’re gonna do, at least until mom goes to bed!
- January 16, 3:30 p.m., at the Hollywood Hotel, which is at 1160 North Vermont Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90029. Or you can import the calendar entry itself!
- I know, I don’t usually let that stop me or even slow me down, but I’ve got a lot of material to get through here, and I just don’t have time to shoot off my mouth on a bunch of only tangentially relevant stuff about criminal justice.
- Unsupported by facts for the most part, but making a lot of sense nevertheless and also being totally consistent with stuff I learned in high school civics! Plus, as always, it passed the MK.Org lawyer test, which is that I explained this opinion to more than zero lawyers and fewer than all of them laughed.
- This is consistent with how the U.S. Congress exercises the power of the purse over the activities of the Executive Branch. That is, without a law authorizing the expenditure of money on activities, not only can the Executives not buy tangible stuff, but they can’t pay their staff to do stuff either. That’s why when Washington fails to reach an agreement on spending, the Federal Government has to shut down and people have to stop showing up for work and doing stuff. It’s not that they’re out of money to pay them, it’s that they’re not allowed to spend money to pay them without specific authorization. This must be what the California State Legislature was thinking with these spending restrictions on BIDs.
- The statute says that the money may not be used for the first purpose or for the second purpose. This is, albeit tangentially, quite interesting to me, because of course, after a “not,” “or” means “and.” It’s one of De Morgan’s laws, although certainly everyone knew about it before De Morgan codified it. I was never one of those kids who hassled teachers by asking when we were ever gonna use this in real life, but if I had been, think what a SNAP answer it would have been for Teach to throw back at my little imaginary past self: “Statutory construction in the service of BID destruction, DUH!”
- Although these MDPs are mind-numbingly dense and probably impossible for humans to read, there’s a lot of interesting information and a lot of untapped potential in them. In particular, they’re required to contain justifications for BID boundaries and for various assessment rates. As far as I can tell, the BID proponents just make this shit up wholesale and then justify it ex post facto, hiding behind complex-seeming although actually essentially linear and therefore simple functions involving square footage, linear frontage footage, building height, and so on. They use incredibly bogus statistical techniques, and when I have more time, which the way things have been going will be never, but who can see the future?, I plan to expose them for the frauds that they are. Stay tuned!
- I understand that they have not yet committed to supporting the initiative, but they’re already expending staff time on allowing its proponents to speak. That’s a use of resources in itself. Also, a BID board meeting is not some kind of open forum, except in the technical sense that public comment must be allowed. No BID is in the habit of giving agenda time to proposals that aren’t going to be supported. It just does not happen. Anyway, Jeff Zarrinnam is on the record as being an anti-prop-47 fanatic. Just for instance, see Item D.1 in January 2015 minutes of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council, of which Jeff Zarrinnam is, or at least was at the time, the treasurer.
- I’m not arguing this, I’m showing how a bunch of brain-dead BIDdies and their soul-sold litigationists might argue.
- Why do they all use this word? It’s really offensive at this point, but I don’t seem to be able to articulate why. Maybe it’s because it seems to be what they call a neighborhood right before they gentrify it and then bulldoze and arrest everything and everyone that makes it interesting. Chavez Ravine is the Platonic Form of this kind of bullshit rhetoric.
- Which we’re discussing second.
- There has been such an encampment there in the past, there may be one there now for all I know, and there will certainly be another one there at some point in the future. Take a look at this map of the BID if you’re interested.