Tue05262015

Last updateMon, 25 May 2015 2pm

LOS ANGELES Tuesday, May 26th 2015 12:36

WAGE RAISE RAGE

  • WHO WE ARE-Nearly half of Los Angeles just gave itself a raise. Following a wave of state and local minimum-wage bills and initiatives, Los Angeles became one of the largest cities to dramatically raise its hourly base pay and join Seattle to hit the magic $15-an-hour demand pushed by labor and community groups nationwide. The City Council…
  • ​City Snookered by Westfield Billionaires

    Jack Humphreville
    LA WATCHDOG-In March of 2014, the Herb Wesson led City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti approved a 25 year, $48 million giveaway to help the $28.5 billion Westfield Corporation finance its $250 million development, The Village at Westfield Topanga. (Photo) But this subsidy championed by Councilman Bob Blumenfield was hardly necessary as The Village…
  • Slick With Denial: ‘Self-Regulation’ and the Latest Oil Spill

    Judith Lewis Mernit
    HISTORY LESSONS IGNORED-On Wednesday, May 20, the day after a Santa Barbara County fire inspector discovered a stream of contaminated crude oil flowing onto a pristine segment of the Southern California coast, a group of researchers published a study linking the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to a mass die-off of bottlenose dolphins. The 46…
  • Scaremongering about the Patriot Act Sunset

    Jameel Jaffer
    FALSE CLAIMS EXPOSED-In a last-ditch effort to scare lawmakers into preserving unpopular and much-abused surveillance authorities, the Senate Republican leadership and some intelligence officials are warning that allowing Section 215 of the Patriot Act to sunset would compromise national security. (One particularly crass example from Senator…
  • Still the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave

    Ken Alpern
    ALPERN AT LARGE-It's been another year and another successful Flag Placement at the West Los Angeles National Cemetery. Crawling out of bed in the morning on a holiday weekend to show up bright and early for a show of American patriotism and respect to our veterans and fallen heroes, the region and nation saw yet again how the Boy Scouts, Girl…
  • Retaliation: VA Police Target Veterans

    Robert L. Rosebrock
    LOS ANGELES – Recently, I was interviewed by John Ismay, an Iraqi War Veteran who is the “Veterans and Military Issues Reporter” for Southern California Public Radio. We met at the Los Angeles VA to discuss the never-ending misappropriation of land at this largest VA in the nation, within our nation’s capital for homeless Veterans. We were…
  • City Controller’s Grandstanding DWP Audit is the Real Waste of Ratepayer Dollars

    Dennis Zine
    JUST THE FACTS-City Controller Ron Galperin’s Grandstanding DWP Audit results were finally released. Unfortunately, the conclusion and political spin that came afterwards from the controller was misleading. Here are the FACTS: The DWP’s Joint Training Institute and Joint Safety Institute are administered by DWP managers and representatives of the…
  • A Place Where ‘Special Interest’ is NOT a Dirty Word

    Denyse Selesnick
    MY TURN-We need to have a new word to differentiate the villainous “Special Interest” that everyone is always complaining about and the “Special Interest” that almost all of politicians and civic and social activists have adopted as a cause. It is impossible to have passion about multiple issues. I know I have mentioned this before, but it seems…
  • Alert! America’s Small Businesses are Being Screwed by Big Business

    Robert Reich
    THE ECONOMY-Can it be that America’s small businesses are finally waking up to the fact they’re being screwed by big businesses? For years, small-business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses have lined up behind big businesses lobbies. (Photo: small businesses in Studio City) They’ve contributed to the same Republican…

 

  • Can Strawberries Help Fight Cancer?

    Christian Cristiano
    WELLNESS-There have been a number of studies over the years that could show evidence of strawberries fighting off cancer. Tong Chen lead a study…
  • Study: The Best Way to Quit Smoking … Bet On It

    Francie Diep
    WELLNESS-Oftentimes, money speaks louder than words. Apparently, that aphorism applies to cigarettes too. A new study finds that money incentives…
  • Exercise Can Help Anxiety … Here’s How

    Christian Cristiano
    WELLNESS-Statistics show that over 3 million American adults suffer from anxiety and there is no evidence that number will be declining any time…




ICYMI-Amy Schumer shows Dave her vagina

Remembering Ann Meara: 1929-2015

The Star Spangled Banner … like you’ve never heard it before

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

LA’s Secret Meeting Habit: Contempt and Arrogance or Just Bureaucratic Malpractice?

RETHINKING LA - We, the people, have the right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies yet our elected officials regularly violate this right, creating obstacles to public attendance, participation, and free speech.

This behavior may be due to simple ignorance, although it is hard to believe that elected officials, some having been in public service for more than three decades, are still unaware of the Bill of Rights or the Brown Act.
Two days ago, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission was taken to task for convening the body without proper notice to the public of the meeting or its agenda, a violation of California’s Brown Act, also known as the Open Meeting Law.

The meeting was cancelled abruptly, prompting Commissioner Bernard Parks to chastise the Coliseum Interim General Manager John Sandbrook for allowing the meeting to take place without letting the Commission know that simply participating in the meeting could be a violation of the law.

One might suggest that the Brown Act violation is the least of the Commission’s worries, coming on the heels of charges that the Commission has been engaged in secret sessions that address a proposal to give operational control of the financially floundering stadium to USC.

This casualness with the law comes on the heels of the recent revelation that Coliseum officials have given over a million dollars in cash to a union official who was then responsible for the wages of the Coliseum stagehands, all with no oversight and accountability for appropriate taxes, insurance, and benefits.

As the US Labor Department and the District Attorney investigate this and other operational and financial irregularities, the Commissioners fall back on the favorite legal defense of elected officials, “I had no idea!”

LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky exclaimed "I was never made privy to, nor informed of, financial statements of any kind that documented any cash payments to anyone."

Whew!

Zev was recently in the news for his attempt, in his new role as the Chair of the LA County Board of Supervisors, to limit public comment during Board sessions, a move that violates the Brown Act and demonstrates his contempt for public participation and free speech.

Keep in mind that Coliseum audits tend to follow media inquiries, demonstrating the value of public participation in the process and transparency in the management of public assets.

As for the Board of Supervisors, Zev recently introduced a motion to revise the rules in order to “improve the way Board meetings are conducted.” If approved, the new rules of order would mean simply participating in the Board meetings could be a violation of the law.

Open Meeting advocates, from the League of Women Voters to Bob Blue, pointed out that the public can’t be limited to general comments but have the right to comment on agenda items as they come up. They also pointed out that the proposed requirement to require speakers to provide their names and addresses also violates the law.

The open and transparent attempt to violate the Brown Act can only be attributed to contempt of the public, arrogant hubris, or complete and thorough ignorance of the law.

Whatever the explanation, it speaks volumes for the environment of neglect that has allowed the Coliseum to flounder while management paid their own companies to provide services and collected compensation from other Coliseum vendors, all while delivering suitcases of cash to the local union.

Typically, when officials such as the LA County Board of Supervisors or LA’s City Council are sworn in, the oath of office starts with a commitment to uphold the law of the land. Yet when it includes allowing the public to criticize them or to watch them engage in the public’s business, this oath falls by the wayside.

Miki Jackson and John Walsh recently went to LA’s City Council to speak during public comment on the demise of the CRA, an occasion that drew speakers from all perspectives and offered the City of LA an opportunity to participate in a violation of the 1st Amendment.

The City Council’s Sgt. at Arms, a sworn peace officer in uniform and armed with a gun, informed Jackson and Walsh that they couldn’t hold a sign while they were speaking nor could they even sit in chambers while in possession of the sign.

This violation of the 1st Amendment took place and as Jackson and Walsh left chambers, a member of the City Attorney’s office chased them down and urged them to return, demonstrating that somebody in chambers was familiar with the Bill of Rights guarantee of Free Speech and the Brown Act guarantee that criticism is a form of public comment.

This isn’t the first time that the City Attorney’s office has jumped to protect its client from violating the law.

Simply attending Council, Committee, and Commission meetings typically includes a demand for identification in violation of the Brown Act which guarantees open meetings and the right to participate without identification restrictions. (for those who worry about security issues, go visit the state capital. There is still security screening, they simply don’t require you to identify yourself)

The DWP Commission was well into its agenda when a member of the public entered to announce that the meeting was talking place in violation of the Brown Act because security was restricting access. The City Attorney’s representative jumped to his feet and acknowledged that the DWP’s policy of requiring identification was a violation of State law.

For those that question the significance of a simple ID violation, consider that the public agencies and authorities who are cavalier about such specifics are demonstrating a casualness with the law that typically reflects additional and deeper inappropriate or illegal behavior.

A member of City Planning recently stood next to a member of City Hall’s General Services Police Department and blocked entrance to a meeting of a Brown Act governed body to anyone who didn’t show identification. The city employee assured the public that they were trained in Brown Act rules and city staff reiterated their refusal to allow members of the public to attend or participate in the meeting until they produced identification.

This obstinate behavior, even when confronted by the law, speaks volumes to the uphill battle that the public faces when challenging plans, proposals, policies, codes, laws, and other actions that our elected officials and public employees advance on our behalf without our participation or approval.

The City Planning employee committed a misdemeanor, prosecutable because it took place in the presence of a sworn law enforcement officer. Typically, Brown Act violations require a claim of violation and a “demand for cure” which amounts to a do-over of the meeting or agenda item in question.

LA’s Police Commission also demonstrates a cavalier attitude to the Brown Act, either out of ignorance or arrogance, either way a bad sign for the body that purports to have oversight and accountability for the LAPD as it engages in the business of upholding the law.

Whether it’s your 1st Amendment fight to free speech or your Brown Act right to receive notice of meetings, speak in public, review documents before they are acted on, and simply witness the proceedings without hassle, the City of LA and the County of LA are far from a tradition of compliance.

Whether or not you care about the inner machinations of Coliseum management or the demise of the CRA or the details of Brown Act guarantees to open meetings, it’s important that you stand up for those that do.

Whether or not you care about access to City Planning or the DWP Commission or the Police Commission or any of the bodies that act on your behalf, it’s important that you stand up for those that do.

If you care about accountability in our government, it is imperative that you demand that those who are conducting the people’s business abide by the law, in everything they do.

When our elected officials violate the Bill of Rights and California State Law, they have violated their oath of office and clearly demonstrated that they are unfit to serve.

(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net.)
–cw

Tags: Stephen Box, Bernard Parks, Zev Yaroslavsky, secret meetings, Brown Act violations, Open Meeting Law











CityWatch
Vol 10 Issue 10
Pub: Feb 3, 2012

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