The city of Los Angeles has been holding public hearings to gather input on possible frameworks for legalizing street vending. Yesterday we began discussing the June 11 meeting in Van Nuys by considering Kerry Morrison’s statement. Today we move on to John Tronson. You can listen to his statement here or after the break, where a transcription is also available. Audio of the entire meeting is available here. We’re just going to look at John’s statement one piece at a time.
Good evening. My name is John Tronson. I’m a member of the Hollywood Entertainment District, which is a property-owner based business improvement district in Hollywood.
All these people start off by saying something true. It’s meant to lull your suspicions. Don’t let it. We spend three and a half million dollars a year of our own money to clean the streets of Hollywood, to trim the trees, to provide additional public safety and paint out graffiti.
The way a property-based BID works is this: If the majority of the property owners in a district agree, the city adds an extra assessment to their property tax, keeps some part of the money raised for administrative overhead, and distributes the rest back to the BID to spend on specific kinds of services in the district. There are two important points to remember. First, a BID can be established over the objection of individual property owners. Only a majority need approve. Second, once a BID is established, the assessment is no longer voluntary. It is compulsory. Non-payment is punishable by the full range of state action2 up to and including violent confiscation of property. In other words, this assessment, once paid, is a tax. After all, income tax might be considered voluntary in this same sense. The Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution was put in place by elected representatives, so in a way, the people to be taxed consented to the taxation. But now that it’s in place, income tax is no longer voluntary, just as BID assessments are no longer voluntary. This is consistent with the standard definition: Tax: A compulsory contribution to the support of government, levied on persons, property, income, commodities, transactions, etc., now at fixed rates, mostly proportional to the amount on which the contribution is levied.3
Now, everyone who pays taxes has, at one point or another, thought of that money as still their own. But really, it’s not. Try telling a cop not to give you a ticket because you pay their salary with your “own money.” Try telling a professor at UCLA they have to give your kid an A+ because it’s your “own money” that supports them. It’s a losing argument. Taxes, once paid, belong to the public, not to the people who paid them. BID assessments are taxes. BID assessments are public money. Now, as to John’s statement about what they do with that public money, it’s true as far as it goes. That’s not all they spend the money on, but they do spend it on that. We won’t argue. Onward! Continue reading John Tronson in Van Nuys: Money doesn’t talk, it swears1→
Previous installments of this series appear here: Part 1 and Part 2
We originally planned to write a full post making fun of Nicole Shahenian’s speech at the May 28, 2015 meeting at Boyle Heights City Hall on the subject of legalized street vending in Los Angeles. On listening to it again, though, we realized that it’s nothing more than the same old nonsense, probably ghost-written by Kerry Morrison, and that writing on it would be a waste of time, space, and electricity. So today we’re concluding our reportage on the May 28 meeting with a brief discussion of the good guys, the white hats, the rays of sunshine, the breaths of fresh air, the actual humans in the room, the supporters of legalized street vending in lovely Los Angeles. In particular we hear from an actual street vendor who supports his family and from badass civil rights lawyer Cynthia Anderson-Barker, who explains why it’s essential to repeal LAMC 42.00(b) because, not only is it not being enforced equitably, it is not actually possible to enforce it equitably.
First up we have a man, whose name we didn’t catch on the audio, who’s one of the street vendors that Kerry Morrison recently mocked in public for claiming that he practices street vending in order to support his family. Listen here or read a transcription after the break. She has complained vociferously in the past and will no doubt complain vociferously in the future about the tone and incivility of those who oppose her iron will, never taking into account that her minions, who are paid to go to these meetings to speak words that, even if she didn’t actually write them, are certainly consistent with every public statement she’s ever made on the issue, are directly attacking people like this speaker, who are trying in the face of massive harassment to feed their families.
She and her minions rank this man’s life and well-being below the putative, delusionally construed rights of their employers not only to own property in Hollywood, to make untold amounts of money in exchange for very little productive labor, and not only that, but to have an extraordinarily immoral amount of control over the social conditions of life in places and neighborhoods where they don’t even live. In the face of this, Kerry Morrison has the audacity to complain about the audience being “uncivil” to her minions? Quel chutzpah, n’est ce pas? Anyway, in his speech, this man makes it clear that he knows that they’re his enemy. And he’s not wrong. They are his enemy. They are our enemies.
He says, plausibly directly in response to BID flacks Alyssa Van Breene and/or Devin Strecker:
there were a series of four hearings that the chief administrative office staff held on the… the sidewalk vending ordinance. … It’s just this kind of amorphous set of hearings, which were completely dysfunctional, disrespectful, and almost, um, resembled a circus.
Now listen, O citizens of Hollywood, to HPOA staffie Devin Strecker speaking before the same meeting:
We’ve written before about the HPOA’s crazed-and-at-the-mouth-foaming opposition to Councilmembers Huizar’s and Price’s proposed ordinance legalizing street vending in the city of Los Angeles. We’ve written about the HPOA’s scheme to send its agents to public meetings in the ill-concealed guise of concerned citizens opposing the ordinance. Today we report on Kerry Morrison’s recent discussion of her experience orchestrating that whole fiasco. We’ll analyze it line by line, and you can watch the whole thing here and/or read a transcription after the break.
The release of the HPOA’s quarterly newsletter is always an interesting time here at MK.org secret headquarters. On the one hand we’re always aghast at the latest stupidity, cupidity, mental rigidity, and white privilegidity on display. On the other hand, we always end up with a bunch of topics about which to write. The Summer 2015 issue is no exception.
As every regular reader of this blog knows by now, the HPOA is hysterically opposed to the legalization of street vending in Los Angeles. They’ve entered into conspiracies with the abhorrent Central City Association to subvert the democratic process through astroturfing and mendacity. And, according to Kerry Morrison, writing in the newsletter:
Before an ordinance is drafted, the CLA [Chief Legislative Analyst] staff presided over a series of public hearings to gain input from the community. Staff representing both BIDs, along with board members, attended each of these hearings and expressed the concerns of the business community. However, members of the business community were outnumbered easily 10:1 at these hearings.
Hollywood board member Alyssa Van Breene and staffer Devin Strecker attended the first meeting on May 28 in Boyle Heights. When they tried to share their concerns the audience booed. Though there were no boos or hissing at the second hearing on June 11 in Van Nuys, the audience was unruly and disrespectful to those testifying against the ordinance or speaking on behalf of small business.
Even after all this time, it’s hard to understand why these people are so dead-set against legalizing and regulating something that’s not only happening now, but is going to be happening in the future because it’s an integral part of the culture of Los Angeles. We have some ideas, but whatever their reasoning is, we don’t think it would be too much to ask that they tell the truth while they’re opposing it.
First of all, Marie Rumsey wants you to know that there are only nine health inspectors for all of LA county and there are 50,000 street vendors. The point is that it’s unlikely that food vendors would be inspected sufficiently. Let’s forget, just for a second, that currently none of the vendors are inspected, so inspecting ANY of them would improve public health. According to Bloomberg, there are 10,000 illegal food vendors in Los Angeles (granted, out of 50,000 vendors total, but health inspectors don’t worry about balloon-sellers, do they?) That’s lie number one, Marie. Next, we can’t find hard data for the number of health inspectors in LA County at the moment, but a moment’s googling told us that in 1989 there were 47 of them, and in 1997 there were 161. That the number has dropped to 9 in 2015 seems beyond implausible. That’s lie number two, Marie.
We have written before about the BIDs’ hysterical, dishonest opposition to City Councilman José Huizar‘s proposal to legalize street vending. We’ve discussed the fact that many of the BID board members who oppose this law are themselves criminals, although not the kind who get prosecuted for their dirty deeds. We’ve written about how their froth-mouth rage at this relatively small move in the direction of sanity puts them in opposition to democracy itself. But we haven’t yet written about the very human cost of continuing to outlaw street vending in Los Angeles. Continue reading Don’t Incarcerate the Ice Cream Man→
As we’ve previously discussed at great length, the palefaced economic elites of Los Angeles are all abuzz at the possibility that the City Council might legalize street vending of various kinds, an activity whose practitioners are, for the most part, not that palefaced. As part of their abuzzitude, the palefaces have produced reams of frantic pearl-clutching hysteria regarding the threats posed to truth, justice, the American way, etc. that would, they say, certainly ensue as a result of such legalization.
These white-privilege rage-rants, while mostly grounded in delusion and mental illness, occasionally contain valid and useful arguments. It can sometimes happen, as Albert Einstein said, that “a blind pig has found an acorn.”1A letter by Kerry Morrison, Executive Directrix of the HPOA, to Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, is an example of this. Kerry argues that, amongst other reasons, street vending should not be legalized, at least not in Hollywood, because it “raises numerous questions that must be taken into consideration. For example, how will taxes and permits be enforced, especially given that this is a cash-only business?“2
As an aside, this argument can also be used against iconic Los Angeles restaurants The Pantry, Nick’s Cafe, and Philippe’s. Will the HPOA soon be asking the City Council to shut down these landmark establishments?
In any case, Kerry also lists a bunch of other undesirable consequences that, in her view, are likely to ensue from the legalization of street vending. These are not all illegal, e.g. the horrifying prospect of the potential placing of trash into appropriate public receptacles, but they’re all, says Kerry, “not something we are requesting in Hollywood.” We will refer to these en masse as “Kerry Morrison’s cogent argument.”