On September 24, 2020 the directors of six Downtown Los Angeles business improvement districts met with incoming City Councilmember Kevin de León. The BIDs involved were South Park, Historic Core, Downtown Center, Downtown Industrial District, Arts District, and Little Tokyo and the meeting was arranged by South Park BID director Ellen Riotto.
Riotto got in touch with de León’s office on July 27 asking to meet, and by September was working with de León staffer Sarah Flaherty1 to schedule it. On September 23, the night before the meeting, Riotto sent an agenda to Flaherty along with a note about how darn thrilled they all were.2 The agenda was fairly bland:
DTLA BIDs & Councilmember-elect Kevin de León
September 24, 2020
Zoom Meeting Agenda
I. Welcome and introductions
II. Downtown BIDs
• Who we are
• What we do
• Key stats
III. Our priorities
• Economic recovery
• Long-term planning
IV. Council District 14’s priorities
V. Working together and lessons learned
VI. Next steps
But you know and I know that these BIDdies are sneaky as sneaky can be. Very sneaky. Of course they had a hidden agenda as well as a public one. No, like an actual hidden agenda. Literally a hidden agenda. An agenda, but they hid it from de León.3 And here is a copy of it! They had a lot more planned for that meeting than they told their incoming CM! Their purpose:
1. to introduce downtown BIDs and our collective priorities
2. demonstrate the value of BIDs in general
• which of our programs have been successful? Which have not?
3. demonstrate the value of BIDs to him specifically
• we can be his eyes and ears downtown
• we are the conduits to small businesses, residents
4. present the challenges due to COVID
• what’s worked? What hasn’t worked?
• What support do we need immediately?
5. illustrate how working together is a win-win – specific projects/initiatives
They want to be his eyes and ears downtown? Like creepy spies, right? Remember this next time they go on about how all they do is trim the damn trees because the City can’t afford it.4 and explain exactly [w]hat support [they] need immediately. Which is nice, isn’t it? We would all love to have a Councilmember that we could even get a meeting with, forget about one who cares what support we need immediately.
Oh, and that line about being the conduits to small businesses, residents? A big lie, and a very popular one with BIDs. Every BID on that list other than Little Tokyo is a property-based BID.5 Businesses, small or otherwise, are not involved unless they own commercial property. And residents that BIDs can be conduits to are a highly selected, very narrow, exceedingly nonrepresentative collection. But it gets worse. The next bit is the outcomes the BIDdies are aiming at:
1. CD14 walks away from meeting with an accurate understanding of what BIDs are, what we do, etc
2. Demonstrate that we are a coordinated group of organizations and the value that we add
3. establish a relationship with CD14 built on trust and accountability and shared vision
4. set expectations of our communication
• who are our points of contact in his office for each of our various shared values?
• How often do we have facetime with the CM?
5. Identify 2-3 shared priorities and agree to collectively work together
6. a preliminary game-plan/next-steps for achieving win-wins
7. What do you need from us?
This is so loony. What in the world can they mean by establish[ing] a relationship with CD14 built on trust and accountability and shared vision?? Accountability?? Trust?? They’re literally holding a secret agenda — A list of things they want to get out of de León that they didn’t share with him.6 Who’s supposed to trust who with this kind of carrying-on?
They’re going to set expectations of our communication?? Imagine having a CM that you could have expectations of, let alone setting them? And the worst looking bit of them all. How often do we have facetime with the CM? How freaking often?? After some more blah-freaking-blah-blah-blah about shared priorities and similarly weaponized nonsense they get to the real point. What is next?
• who are our points of contact in his office for each of our various shared
• How often do we have facetime with the CM? Monthly?
• Date/time for next zoom call
OK, for real. They expect a different [point] of contact in his office for each of [their] various shared values? What? What?? And they’re back to how much facetime with the CM. Monthly??? Is Monthly enough??? So, CD14, that’s how your new CM rolls. He’s out there meeting with BIDs, getting pressured to give monthly facetime to BIDdies, getting lectured on trust and accountability. Will he do it monthly? Will he share their values? Give them dedicated staffers for each value? Etc?!? Oh, probably he will. They all do eventually. Stay tuned to hear about the details!
- Using the email address firstname.lastname@example.org, which believe me, I sent out about a zillion new requests to everyone when I saw that!
- A couple of comments here. First, it might be worth looking at that 9/23 email. The down-chain conversation tells the whole story of how easily the meeting was arranged. The other thing is that the agenda linked to is a PDF but the original is an MS Word file, which is also available.
- I’m feeling giddy! From using the phrase “hidden agenda” to refer to an actual agenda that was actually kept hidden! First time for me, I think!
- BIDs don’t trim that many trees and the City can very well afford it. But both BIDs and the City love this narrative about the competent private sector taking over for the incompetent City. It works to everyone’s advantage except the people who actually live here, but the BIDdies don’t care about that. Neither do the CMs, for that matter.
- Every BID in Los Angeles is a property-based BID except for Little Tokyo, Wilmington, Los Feliz Village, and Wilshire Center. (I don’t think I missed any). The City of LA greatly favors PBIDs. I doubt they’d allow a new merchant BID at this point.
- I mean they didn’t share the list rather than that they didn’t share the things on the list. Presumably they did that, but I find it pretty hard to imagine they handed over this actual document. Not the right tone, probably.