Yesterday evening a number of emails protesting the formation of a BID in Venice were added to the Council File. These demonstrate the heartening fact that not every owner of commercial property within the boundaries of the proposed BID supports its formation. The arguments are solid, too. For instance, Kevin Ragsdale says:
At this point, the idea of a VERY small group of property owners who may be handed $1.8 million with NO oversight, even by the City, is frightening and not appropriate unless and until we know more and have some say in the process that may well drastically change the face and character of the Venice we know and love in the name of profit making and creating a private police force. The consequences of this action without careful analysis will be profound and must be discussed in a wider audience of people, who also include the majority of property owners who have to pay and those who have more at stake than a desire to clean up Venice Beach to make more money.
Or Frank Lutz, who’s lived in Venice for 48 years:
During my time here in Venice I have seen it all, including some virtuous proposals and some rife with shenanigans. It seems to me that given a proposal beset with such serious implications as has the BID proposal for Venice, that protocol and precedent demand thorough public education and proper discourse before any action or implementation can be taken. Our neighborhoods near the beach are cauldrons of rumors as to how such a proposal as this one would work, and with little actual knowledge as to how it might implicate us. My understanding is that the self-proclaimed “business leaders” behind this proposal, none of them, live near or on the Ocean Front Walk (OFW) area, and indeed, some do not even live in Venice So they do not have to deal with the commotion here, now or in the future. … If the BID people are trying to take control of the social atmosphere here, and want their own form of hegemony over the neighborhood, then alarm bells have already begun to sound. What is their plan? What are their goals? With questions such as these, a long and thoughtful pause must be taken.
We certainly could have used such a discussion in Hollywood in the mid-90s before Jackie Goldberg pushed our first BID through Council, but they were so new at the time that no one had any idea of the damage they could do, and now it’s far too late for Hollywood to recover any of its former loveliness. It may well be too late for Venice also, but the vigorous anti-BID protest in general and these emails in particular give me some hope that it’s not.
And interestingly, one of the emails, perhaps mistakenly, was posted with a note from Miranda Paster, who is in charge of the BID section of the Clerk’s office, to her subordinates Rita Moreno and Rosemary Hinkson, telling them “Please do not respond to the email.” Given that at least in some kind of theoretical sense the City government is supposed to be responsive to the needs and interests of all of its citizens on at least a nominally equal level, no matter how badly that principle fails in practice, it’s disheartening to see these sort of image management, public relations, no comment, talk-to-the-hand tactics.
On the other hand, Miranda Paster’s job description shows that she’s meant to:
[control] verbal and written responses to complex and sensitive requests received from elected officials, taxpayers and the general public.
Forbidding communication is controlling written responses, to be sure, but perhaps not in a way that’s consistent with her responsibility to
[implement] public information campaigns and outreach programs to enlighten the public and property owners of the benefits of assessment districts.
Miranda, if you’re reading this, and I suspect you are, we, the public and property owners, would like some outreach so as to be enlightened as to the benefits of assessment districts. The drawbacks are far, far too clear.