Ah, the Studio City Business Improvement District! As you may recall, a few weeks ago I sent them a demand letter insisting that they stop violating the damn Brown Act by requiring ID to get into their meetings, by not describing their closed session business adequately, by failing to reconvene in open session after a closed session, and by discussing issues by email outside of an open meeting. You can read the actual letter here if you are so inclined.
This project is based on the Brown Act at §54960.2, which allows the BID to avoid litigation by issuing an unconditional commitment never again to violate the particular sections of the law in contention.1 One of the interesting aspects of this section is that it requires the BID to approve the sending of the letter in an open session of a publicly noticed meeting,2 and that’s just what the BID did yesterday! You can watch a video of the whole meeting, all eleven minutes of it, here on YouTube or if you prefer here on Archive.Org.
I don’t have an actual letter from the BID in hand yet, so I’m going to refrain from commenting on or speculating about what it’s going to contain. You can watch Ben Besley make the motion here and he goes on to describe what the letter will be about. Also watch Mike Sitkin ask for clarification and then watch as Dr. John Walker Ph.D. explains everything exactly wrong!
This bit is worth transcribing, and you can find not only that, but a bunch of other interesting stuff after the break! Not least is the episode where after the Board votes to commit to not violating the Brown Act in those specific ways in the future, they go ahead and violate it in a whole new way! Gonna send them another letter quite soon! After I have this one in the bag, that is.
Mike Sitkin: So does it mean that basically any communication would only happen during the meeting?
Dr. Walker Ph.D.: No. It doesn’t mean that. It’s any action that’s within this board’s jurisdiction. That’s all it means.
MS: Oh! Any action!
Walker, Ph.D.: It’s nothing else.
MS: I understand.
Hey, Mike Sitkin! You might understand, but your unlicensed legal advisor Dr. John Walker, Ph.D. doesn’t understand. In fact, whether action is taken or not, discussion amongst a majority of the board by email about any matter within the subject matter jurisdiction of the board is illegal. Just take a look at the Brown Act at §54952.2(b)(1):
A majority of the members of a legislative body shall not, outside a meeting authorized by this chapter, use a series of communications of any kind, directly or through intermediaries, to discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item of business that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.
Note how, contra Dr. Walker Ph.D., the law forbids discussing outside a public meeting as well as acting? This is why you BIDdie boys need to hire an actual lawyer! And, for good or for ill, hiring an actual lawyer is another thing the BIDdie boys did at this meeting. You can watch the discussion starting here.
The executive summary is that Tony Richman already paid Bradley & Gmelich $2,400 at $400 per hour to advise the BID on my demand letter3 and is seeking retroactive board approval for that and proactive approval to spend about the same again having the lawyers write a response to my demand. Serious question: Wouldn’t it just be easier and cheaper to follow the damn law in the first place? It’s not that hard.
And listen, as a sign that the BIDdie boys are serious about complying with their pledge to stop breaking the damn law, they actually moved their board meeting off the CBS studio lot and west on Ventura Blvd. to the famous Pinz Bowling Alley, which does not require an ID to enter, although they do require one to buy beer, although not from me, more’s the pity. This is good from the point of view of compliance with the Brown Act at §54953.3, which states unequivocally that BIDs and other public agencies can’t meet in places where an ID is required for entry.
It’s also good because it puts the meetings smack in the middle of three places that make visits even to Studio Freaking City worthwhile, that is to say Jerry’s Deli, Carney’s, and the Freaking Sportsmen’s Lodge. Given that it takes 90 minutes on a good day to get out there on the bus from my house it’ll be nice to have something human and worthwhile to look forward to in addition to the privileged weirdo yammering of a bunch of privileged weirdo white boys of all ages.
And to close, let me tell you the most ironic aspect of this eleven minute meeting, convened solely for the purpose of agreeing to write a letter of total and abject capitulation to my Brown Act demand letter. After the boys had approved all the motions, that is, the motion to send the letter and the motion to pay the lawyer to write it, bad BID boy Mike Sitkin had something he just really had to get off his chest. You can watch the whole bit starting right here. He declaimed unto his BID buddies thusly:
OK, so my comment was, after thinking through the discussions that we had last meeting, my thought was, putting more money toward security patrols might be basically money thrown away. I don’t really see the advantage to having them come more often, the amount of money that we would be spending. My feeling is, we’re looking to control some criminals. We understand that we have the homeless population everywhere. I don’t think it’s a good idea to start, I guess, fighting with the population. I think that’s something that the police can do. We’re all doing what we’re supposed to do if we’ve marked our private properties. I feel like the patrol that we have is probably adequate.
All very reasonable, content-wise at least. You can skip straight to the end of Mike Sitkin’s comments here if you want to. And it might be worth doing, because something very interesting happens. All the other BIDdie boys can’t wait to chime in! And they’re all going on and on and on about it. And you know, strange thing about the subject of whether the BID should pay for more of a security presence than they’re already paying for. It’s not actually on the freaking agenda. Oh, sure, they have an item labeled “Board Comments on subject matters within the Board’s jurisdiction” but you know, that’s not enough of a description. And the law is very, very, very, very, very clear about this kind of nonsense. Take a little look at the Brown Act at §54954.2(a)(3), where it states unequivocally that:
No action or discussion shall be undertaken on any item not appearing on the posted agenda, except that members of a legislative body or its staff may briefly respond to statements made or questions posed by persons exercising their public testimony rights under Section 54954.3. In addition, on their own initiative or in response to questions posed by the public, a member of a legislative body or its staff may ask a question for clarification, make a brief announcement, or make a brief report on his or her own activities. Furthermore, a member of a legislative body, or the body itself, subject to rules or procedures of the legislative body, may provide a reference to staff or other resources for factual information, request staff to report back to the body at a subsequent meeting concerning any matter, or take action to direct staff to place a matter of business on a future agenda.
Obviously none of the exceptions apply here. Mike Sitkin wasn’t responding to a question, asking a question, making an announcement, reporting on his own activities, or requesting staff to do anything. The whole discussion was against the freaking law. So expect another demand letter to the Studio City BID, friends!4
How meta is that, that the BID meets to agree to stop violating the Brown Act in a list of specific ways and, in the process of doing so, violates it in a whole new way! It’s the kind of thing we live for around here. Soon we’ll get these damn outlaw BIDdies used to following the law, yeah?! Stay tuned!
Image of Ben Besley is ©2018 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and is kinda sorta based offa this lil Ben Besley over here!
- They don’t have to admit that they violated the sections in the first place in order to avoid litigation, so the “again” here is rhetorical.
- At §54960.2(c)(2).
- They don’t say whether it’s Carol Humiston or not, I suppose time will tell.
- Although for logistical reasons it’s probably going to be a few weeks before I get around to it.