It’s well known to local BIDdologists that the Los Angeles Unified School District doesn’t keep pace with its companions amongst City entities, no doubt because it hears the beat of a distinctly different drummer.1 For instance we’ve seen recently how the LAUSD even voted against renewing a bunch of BIDs! Not only is it impossible to imagine the City of Los Angeles doing such a thing2 but it’s actually illegal for the City Clerk to vote against BIDs unless the City Council specifically authorizes it, and how is that ever going to happen?
And somewhat famously, the LAUSD evidently voids all its BID petitions by inserting some kind of unauthorized limiting clause. However, these symptoms of the LAUSD’s idiosyncratic attitude towards BIDs are minor quirks compared to the radical agenda set forth in this 2003 memo on LAUSD BID policy.
There’s a lot going on in that memo, but the first thing to look at is the fee schedule on the last page. The short version is that the LAUSD has unilaterally decided that it will not pay the entire amount of its BID assessments. Instead, they pay between 15% and 50% depending on a number of factors regardless of what the BID has decided to bill them.
And evidently BIDs around Los Angeles have just learned to slurp down that bitter draught, because what else exactly are they going to do about it? They have no power to make the LAUSD pay so they have to be content with what they can get rather than what they should get. That is, evidently most BIDs have so learned. The ones run by the marginally competent, the marginally sane, the marginally realistic, and so on. In short, the ones not run by Elliot Zorensky and Laurie Sale of the marginally famous Pacific Palisades BID.
And here is where today’s story begins! It seems that last summer this pair of super-geniuses, almost certainly at the behest of Elliot Zorensky, the superest super-genius of them all, decided that they were going to get that damnable LAUSD to pay the damn money that they damn well owed to the damn BID! Never mind that this was a path every other BID in this City of Angels feared to tread, Elliot Freaking Zorensky was going to rush in! Turn the page for the play by play!
The first hint of the idea, at least the first I’ve seen, is found in this email chain from April 2017. Therein Laurie Sale writes to Rena Leddy and her flunky Jose Gonzalez of the third most death-star-like of the major Downtown BIDs, that is to say the Fashion District, to ask an ill-informed question about an episode that she only partially remembers, and that part she remembers wrong: “do you remember the outcome of trying to get LAUSD to pay the BID all the back money it owed?3 Just curious. I remember they had some huge amount outstanding, like may [sic] 200K, and can’t remember how it was solved.”
A few minutes later Jose Gonzalez, the Fashion District BID’s finance director, wrote back to her, stating: “This is what I know. In 2006 LAUSD paid the BID $282,000 representing 50% of the assessments owed for years 1999 through 2006. Since then, LAUSD has been paying 50% of their assessments.” And subsequently Laurie Sale forwarded this to Elliot Zorensky.
The next breadcrumb in the trail comes from the Board minutes from May 3, 2017 in which we read, under the heading of New Business, a sentence that says: “Assessments — LAUSD — Discussion on the amount they pay (less than half). Laurie will investigate.”
And on June 7, 2017 it seems from the meeting minutes that Laurie Sale presented the results of her investigation:
LAUSD only pays 40% of their already adjusted 40% rate. They are 6% of our budget. Elliot asked if they deserved to get the same services. Rick Lemmo said we are bound to provide services. Susan asked if LAUSD is aware of that their rate was already discounted? We asked Lisa Cahill to find out who the contact is at LAUSD… it is handled downtown. Can we ask the County to help? We need to be careful about the precedent we are setting as other property owners may wonder why they can’t short pay also. We need to table this discussion until we have more information.
Note the moronic tendency to exercise extreme caution where it’s not needed while at the same time rushing about boldly like a bunch of rocks in an avalanche where even the most delicate steps would still be a risk. There’s no need to be cautious about “the precedent we are setting.” If other property owners complain just tell them LAUSD won’t pay and there’s no law that will make them pay. The property owners, on the other hand, will get a tax lien slapped on their zillionaire asses if they don’t pay. That’s why LAUSD doesn’t have to pay but the property owners do have to pay. If the property owners don’t like it let them complain to Mike Freaking Bonin, who also can’t do anything about this.
On the other hand there’s no consciousness whatsoever of the obvious fact that every other BID in Los Angeles faces the same problem and none of them can solve it. There must, one would think competent adults would realize, be a reason for this and that reason would bear investigation before diving into a battle that the evidence shows almost certainly can’t be won. I’m really tempted to mention Chesterton’s fence here, but I think I won’t.
Jump ahead to June 26, 2017. It seems from this email that Laurie Sale has been talking on the phone to Joyce Izumi of LAUSD about them not paying the full assessment amount. The wires must have crossed somewhere because the next day, when Joyce Izumi emailed Laurie Sale the explanation, it was not at all what the BID was hoping for, but was rather a recalculation of the LAUSD’s obligations according to the idiosyncratic methods that the LAUSD has arrogated unto itself. There’s nothing in the record to show that Laurie Sale answered this.4
And boy, did this make the BIDdies mad when Laurie Sale splained it to them at their next meeting on July 5, 2017, as you can see from the minutes and what they said. Why, Rick Caruso’s metaphorical organ-grinder monkey Rick Lemmo wanted Laurie Sale to get Mike Feuer to fire off a nasty letter to LAUSD. If that was going to work, Rick Lemmo, don’t you think someone else would have already thought of it?5 Better go back to holding up that metaphorical tin cup so metaphorical audience members can toss you another damn metaphorical nickel, 85% of which goes to your literal master! Here’s what was said:
Currently LAUSD has paid $4,818.76 of $13,643.14 assessed for this 2016/2017 year. Laurie called Steve and Aaron both of whom helped make our BID. Joyce Izumi is the person who actually makes the payment for LAUSD. She recalculated what they pay based on their formula and will pay us about $600 more. Rick wants Laurie to ask city attorney to send a letter regarding their delinquency in paying assessed property tax. Elliot asked Laurie to work with Lisa on this. It was discussed that perhaps upon renewal, we eliminate LAUSD from the BID. Lee will head an assessment task force with Elliot & Laurie to think about how to go forward.. It will be part of the treasurer’s report.
That they got no satisfaction from these vague and vacuous schemes is, first of all, not surprising and, second, demonstrated conclusively by the August 5, 2017 minutes:
Laurie distributed a proposed letter to LAUSD, Joyce Izumi, to request payment for delinquent assessments. Rick Lemmo and Elliot have several suggestions to improve it. Laurie will work with Elliot to finalize it. We will ask for the entire School Board be copied and also copy the Principal of Palisades Elementary and the PEP and PTSA Presidents.
So they couldn’t get Mike Feuer to write a letter, it seems, but they wrote their own damn letter! And they’re going to send it to every school board member and every one of their zillionaire Palisades buddies on the PEP and PTSA, whatever the heck those are! And I don’t have a copy of the draft letter that Laurie Sale circulated, but I do have a copy of the letter they finalized on August 5, 2017, although it turns out that they did not send it at that time. It’s full of exactly the kind of entitled zillionaire nonsense you’d expect. Read the whole thing of course, and here’s a sample:
For two years, we have been providing full services to your school surrounded by Via De La Paz, Bowdoin and Swarthmore, to the benefit of your students, teachers and parents. We have and expect to continue providing the sidewalk cleaning, tree trimming and other maintenance around your property. Your payment in 2016 ($5413.14) and 2017 ($4818.76) towards your assessment of $13,643.14 per year is delinquent. You are required to finish paying the assessment for this years. Also, please pay the 2016 amount retroactively. All of our property owners, including city agencies, have paid their assessments in full. We do not wish to curtail services to your property, but you can understand our predicament, especially since we have a very small total budget. We cannot afford to carry you at the expense of our other property owners.
Interestingly, instead of sending this letter straight away, Laurie Sale sent a copy to Miranda Paster of the Clerk’s office to ask her if it was a good idea to send it. It appears from Laurie Sale’s email to the board that Miranda Paster asked her to wait for a few days while she looked into the matter. Laurie Sale told the Board about this and Elliot Zorensky, in full zillionaire libertarian antigovernment paranoiac mode took a break from stockpiling beans and rice in the bomb shelter and fired off this crazed missive:
Laurie can you enlighten me as to what she is looking into and what she is going to accomplish with the delay? She is on the other side and believe she is fighting the battle for the BID I think is wrong. Please enlighten me.
Anyway, because of this or some reason not reflected in the record, the BID did send their whiny little letter on August 16, 2017, as shown in this email from the LAUSD superintendent. And the LAUSD did respond, although I don’t have a copy of their response. I will get one eventually but it’s not going to be soon. I do know they did respond, though, and it’s clear that the BID got no satisfaction from their response, because on September 5, 2017 the BID responded to the response! And it’s pretty kooky. A few excerpts follow, and keep in mind that the whole point of a demand letter is that the sender has the power to force the recipient to do the stuff being demanded. Otherwise it’s not a demand, it’s a strongly worded request, and why should anyone pay attention to that?6
We received your letter (email) of August 28th. I read the original letter you sent about LAUSD having negotiated a lower assessment many years ago. When that was done, many BIDs have/had a “safety”component, so it made sense not to include that amount in the LAUSD assessment. But, as I have explained several times, the Pacific Palisades BID does NOT have a Safety component to our mandate…and therefore, the amount for services provided, should be paid in full. … Also, all the other City entities pay the full amount. … We are providing services which the City of LA no longer performs. … We do not wish to curtail services to your property, but you can understand our predicament, especially since we have a very small total budget. We cannot afford to carry you at the expense of our other property owners.
Note the characteristically LaurieSalean bitching about how she had to tell them something several times. It never occurs to her that she’s being purposefully ignored.7 Also note the characteristic zillionaire bitching about how the City of Los Angeles can’t afford to perform basic services so the putatively efficient private sector has had to step in.
These are the same people who’d spent five months at this point trying to squeeze a mere few thousands bucks worth of the blood of Mammon out of the stone of the LAUSD even though anyone with any sense would know it couldn’t be done. How’s that for efficiency?! And they didn’t stop there. Take a look at this juicy little email from Elliot Zorensky to the BID’s accountant from November 15, 2017, where she wants to write off the LAUSD unpaid assessments and Elliot Zorensky then announces:
My thought is to show as uncollected from LAUSD. I am not ready to write it off yet.
And as far as I know that’s where the story of the Palisades BID and the uncollected assessments from the LAUSD ends. At least that’s where the records that I have access to end. As soon as I get a viable workflow established with this cranky little backwater Northwestern freakshow of a BID I’ll ask for more records and you’ll read about it here! But don’t hold your breath! After all, they seem to be represented by Carol Humiston, who’s not only the world’s angriest CPRA lawyer, she’s the world’s most obstructionist!8
And listen, as a reward for making it this far here’s a tangential little slab of gossipy goodness, showing the covert psychodynamics of these dimwits by the sea. Take a look at this email from erstwhile Palisades BID zeck dreck Laurie Sale to her lord and master, the ungainly little troll known as Elliot Zorensky. It seems that in June 2017, perhaps sick and perhaps tired of waiting for Laurie Freaking Sale to deal with the LAUSD problem he had tasked her with, Elliot Zorensky wrote to Clerk BIDdie-boy Rick Scott, trying to hurry the process along.
But Rick Scott, possibly not understanding that this was a big secret, added Laurie Sale to the recipients when he replied. Thus did she come to understand that Elliot Zorensky was sneaking around behind her back making her look even more like a dumbass than she could plausibly manage on her own. And boy, did she let him have it! Read it and weep, giggle, or otherwise emotionally react. And with that, I’m signing off! Thanks for your patience:
From: Palisades BID [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 7:38 AM
To: Elliot Zorensky
Subject: RE: LAUSD, and more
I’ve been on top of this thing with LAUSD, like I was tasked with doing, and didn’t know you had contacted Rick. I’ve got all the answers already, from LAUSD and others, including the person in charge who has recalculated and is sending us some additional money. But, by writing to Rick, it feels and looks like I’m not doing my job, and I am.
The same thing happened with Debbie at CD 11 about the parking space. You wrote to her AFTER I had spoken at length to her. I’ve been doing all of this, and will continue to, but please going forward, talk to me before you send something off…just so we don’t look like we’re duplicating efforts. Just call or email me and I’ll catch you up on my work, so that we don’t look silly. I can also cc you on everything I send out, if you’d like.
Am preparing a memo for the meeting next week, with a lot of comments, about LAUSD, and the note about more money coming, and will be glad to talk to you about it later today, if you’d like. And I’ll send you the report prior to the rest of the BID if you’d like.
I don’t even have a copy of the original email that you sent to Rick.
Just give me the “head’s up” next time, and we can avoid all of this.
Thanks for understanding.
Image of Elliot Zorensky is ©2018 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and bears a family resemblance to this lil floofball right here.
- I don’t know about you but when I was 17 I certainly thought Walden was about the most brilliant book ever written. I read it again a few years ago and was amazed at how puerile it seems now. But regardless of that the man certainly can turn a phrase, and I certainly can appropriate a phrase, so here we are!
- The LAUSD is pretty much independent of the rest of the City. For instance the City Council can’t boss the LAUSD around at all. Of course I’m not a lawyer, and of course reading laws is hard to do correctly, but it’s my impression that this fact is due to the City Charter at §805, which states that “[t]he Board of Education shall have power to control and manage the public schools of the Los Angeles Unified School District in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the state.” I believe that this means that the Board of Education is not answerable to laws of the City of Los Angeles, and therefore not answerable to the City Council. I could be completely wrong about this and if you know more than I do I’d love to hear about it in the comments or via email to mike at michaelkohlhaas.org.
- Laurie Sale is talking about the Fashion District BID here and its history with LAUSD. Not only was Laurie Sale at the time she was writing the pathetically part time zeck dreck of the Pacific Palisades BID, but she was also, and still is as far as I know, on the Board of Directors of the Fashion District BID. Evidently she owns property in the Fashion District but lives in the Palisades. Like all the freaking rest of them.
- Although I must admit that the incompleteness of the record is filled to the brim with woe, or however that cliche goes. This return on my request was so filled with holes, so amateurish, so pathetically incomplete, that … well, that it goes beyond the power of mere cliche to describe. This is no doubt partly due to the maddeningly purposeful empty-headed obstructionism of BID zeck dreck Laurie Sale. But she retired a few months ago and things really didn’t get much better. Although, to be fair, I did actually get some records out of these people. Board president Elliot Zorensky, who seems to have taken over the CPRA obstructionism duties from Laurie Sale, is just as maddening albeit in quite different ways. So that’s why we’re not drawing conclusions from the fact that I have no response from Laurie Sale to Joyce Izumi.
- Of course Rick Lemmo really doesn’t understand this principle. He’s well-known around the MK.Org secret headquarters for thinking he was going to get rid of me after my first few CPRA requests by being super-obstructionist no matter how much money it cost his damnable BID. Not his money, after all. He may even still think it’s working, but ask him again six months from now. Got it, Rick? It’s easier just to follow the damn law, because you’re not as smart as many people who have already failed at what you’re trying to do.
- Obviously I mean if they weren’t already inclined to pay attention, and clearly the LAUSD is not inclined, or the BID wouldn’t be sending them these letters in the first place.
- Which, experience has shown, is essentially the only way to deal with her.
- Tied for first place with Hollywood Superlawyer Jeffrey Charles Briggs, but that is a whole nother story, as we say in California.