The Brown Act is the California law governing public meetings. It’s serious business. § 54959 states that
Each member of a legislative body who attends a meeting of that legislative body where action is taken in violation of any provision of this chapter, and where the member intends to deprive the public of information to which the member knows or has reason to know the public is entitled under this chapter, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Now, that intent element is a little sticky. Evidently it’s not a crime “to deprive the public of information” if you’re just ignorant of the law or too arrogant to understand that the law applies to you or whatever. But at least some members of some groups subject to the Brown Act must be guilty of a misdemeanor when, e.g., they explicitly deny members of the public access to documents which the Brown Act states explicitly must be made available to the public “immediately.” When a member of a body subject to the Brown Act says “no, you can’t look at the document,” the intent is clear. The member “has reason to know” the law because it’s their job to know the law, them being a member of a Brown-Act body. Bang! Misdemeanor. Then how does the law get enforced in such a case?
The procedure is laid out in the Act itself (§54960 et seq.). Either the DA or a member of the public can go to court and ask for injunctive relief of various kinds or else “any interested party” can write a letter to the criminals, point out their crime, give them 30 days to think about it, and allow them the option of promising never to do the crime in the future albeit without admitting that they actually did it in the past. As far as we can see, no one has ever gone to jail for violating the Brown Act (although see this story about a guy in Illinois who placed a whole county board of supervisors under citizen’s arrest). Continue reading How to Enforce the Law→
See Sarah Besley, Carol Massie, and Kerry Morrison discuss the Vine Street tree vandal. Tree vandalism is antisocial and upsetting and the suspect should be arrested and tried, but why this zeal to charge it as a felony? The fact that the BID is talking to a prosecutor, who’s “willing to work with them,” about upping the charge even though the amount of damage hasn’t yet hit the required threshold evinces a lack of respect for the law and suggests that the BID has public officials willing to bend the law on their behalf. As far as we’re concerned, these BID folks are all serial misdemeanants for their Brown Act violations. Their victims don’t have prosecutors willing to even charge the BID people, let alone “work with them” to twist the law around to charge them as felons, even though their crimes affect quality of life in Hollywood far more than tree vandalism does. The vandalized trees might be beams in the eye of the vandal, but the BID has a forest in its own eye, which it evidently can’t see for the trees. Continue reading The Trees and the Forest→
When businessmen try to recreate Los Angeles from scratch they end up with some horrifying misbegotten travesty like CityWalk or Santa Monica. They don’t know how to make a real Los Angeles. If tourists knew how to make a place like this there’d be at least one out East of San Bernardino where tourists come from, and there’s not. Tourists don’t know how to make one either. Continue reading You didn’t build that→
Here’s an interesting story. A world-famous city, rich in culture and in wealth, has nevertheless some neighborhoods with undesirable inhabitants. Addicted to drugs or alcohol, mentally ill, sexually deviant in public ways, just generally offensive to good taste. The government seems neither able nor willing to deal with the problem so private citizens form self-help groups and begin discouraging the undesirables by various means. They do a pretty efficient job and before you know it the government is forming public-private partnerships and subsidizing the work of these groups. They move from strength to strength. Property values go up, business is good, they even manage to host the Olympic Games so that all the people of the world can see their stunning success. And then… Continue reading A tale of two cities→