Miranda Paster is the director of the LA City Clerk’s Neighborhood and Business Improvement Division (NABID), which administers the City’s BID program. Her job description (updated in February 2014) includes among her duties presenting at the conferences of the International Downtown Association:1…deliver formal presentations, including analyses and recommendations, to the City Council and its Committees and International Downtown Association Conferences…
The story begins in 2011,2 when BIDs gave Miranda Paster $3000 to attend the IDA’s 2011 annual conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. Take a look at this collection of emails and records of payments from 2011. These show that less than two weeks before the conference started, Paster was scrambling to get the money together to attend, but that she already had a commitment from the BIDs to pay $3000 (a log of the actual payments is included there). It seems that in 2011, Paster’s attendance at this conference was a new thing for her, as the financing was arranged in such a hurry. I’m guessing that at this point presenting at this conference was not yet part of Paster’s official duties. It’s a rare bureaucracy indeed which will not pay its employees’ expenses to carry out their duties. So the BIDs paid, buying at least a sense of obligation.
One of the advantages that zillionaires have over humans with respect to City politics is that they can hire innumerable minions to keep up with the firehose of crap spewed forth by City Hall, certainly in an effort to keep the minion-deprived majority too busy to address everything. Which is my half-serious, half-silly1 excuse for only having noticed this evening the two matters addressed in this post.
First we have Council File 14-0903, in which Holly Wolcott asked for and received an “amount not to exceed $100,000 …for a period of two years with two one-year extensions to assist with the creation and implementation and coordination of a Public Information Campaign” having to do with how fricking great BIDs are for the City of L.A. Additionally they’re getting “an amount not to exceed $150,000 … for a period of two years with two one-year extensions to assist with the creation and implementation of a capacity building and leadership training series relative to business improvement districts and create public/private partnerships with other nonprofit organizations..” None of this seems like very much money given (a) the amount of truth they’re going to have to overcome in order to achieve the first goal and (b) the amount of sheer incompetence and bloody-mindedness to achieve the second. Brace yourself for the incoming propaganda!
I’m writing to urge you to postpone consideration of the proposed Venice Beach business improvement district and to think about placing a moratorium on the formation of new BIDs until we as a City can have a much-needed, long-delayed conversation about their proper role. A major problem is that as they’re now constituted, there is no way for anyone not on their Boards of Directors to have any influence over property-based BIDs in Los Angeles. They have effectively isolated themselves from every one of the City’s means of contractor oversight. People who live in or near BIDs are directly impacted by their activities in many ways but have no effective means of influencing them. Since the property owners associations that administer the BIDs are mostly controlled by self-perpetuating Boards there aren’t even effective ways for the property owners in BIDs to influence their policies. Property-based BIDs also covertly and perhaps inadvertently perpetuate racist policies from the past in unexpected ways. Continue reading Open Letter to City Council Asking For Postponement of Venice Beach BID And A Moratorium On New BID Formation→