Mon, Apr

LA Rolls Out the Mutha Of All Budgets


ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - Mask-optional public transit announcements by many agencies including the FAA and LA County Metro have alarmed some immunocompromised people and their families.

Also, public meetings requiring masks is kind of sort of inhibitory, so... not sure it's popular, but every Angeleno has the right and responsibility to protect themselves to their own standards. Or phone in, if too risky. 

We do need to move forward.     

On Tuesday, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors agreed to a $1.85 million dollar settlement with a whistleblower who alleged child welfare failures. The suit, brought by a former county social worker, said he had been retaliated against after raising concerns about agency misconduct that put children in danger.  There were seven other settlements and the Board has still not reviewed last year's litigation reports.  

I detected a new sleight-of-hand from the innovative Executive Office and AT&T.  Public speakers, it turns out, may speak for one minute on one item or two minutes for two or more items. What about general public comment?  It's included.  

Given that the board routinely has over 90 items when they meet, that's simply absurd.  

The item numbered 84 related to the 2022-2023 Budget.   

The board took public comments before we got to hear the report from Fesia Davenport the current CEO. 

As Mayor Garcetti and City Budget Henchman, Paul Krekorian are fixing to drop this year's city budget hearing schedule, the County rolled out it's $38.5 Billion-dollar mutha.   

Not too shabby, as Evelyn Taft likes to say on KCAL CBS.  [btw #CBSLA has a sheriff debate.] 

The county added 513 jobs to a whopping 111,551 this year and "these are middle-class jobs," according to Hilda Solis.   

The average county employees' wages are near $100,000 a year, and the city is not far off.   

In fact, the unions can thank Councilmember Paul Koretz, who is running for Controller but did not get the LA Times endorsement. Kenneth Mejia nabbed that prize but Koretz was called a "rubber stamp" on budget-busting labor deals. Rubber Stamp Koretz! RSK  

The optimistic outlook at the County is driven by projected increases of $381 million in property tax revenue and $70 million in sales tax revenue. The budget will provide $12.3 million for more academy classes for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, whose funding remains around $3.4 billion. #CBSLA 

I was encouraged to see the county is adding a department that will focus on aging and disabilities. Maybe Sheila's office can call our seniors out in Malibu who asked for help, since the new unit is set to launch on July 1. I was discouraged to see that Jonathan Sherin, the Department of Mental Health topper is going to be stepping down.  

Dr. Sherin once bravely came out to a Forum in Studio City at our library. Koretz finked out, but many of the nasty powerwashers from NextDoor stayed away from out community forums because they preferred to talk about enforcement than solutions.   


Structural Deficits:

As is customary, there is a structural deficit in the County Fire Department.  Call it a huge unmet need with red lights and sirens.  

At the Department of Children and Family Services, due to unfunded state mandates, requests for labor increases, same problem.  Plus, the $1.85M comes out of their budget.  

And the County Library, which is hard not to adore, has a lil structural deficit too, causing Parks After Dark and Nurse Home Visiting to be tabled, temporarily, until later in the process when the Supervisors can sprinkle their magic pixie dust, and open up the pocketbooks.    

The actual Budget Hearing will begin on May 11 and Board deliberations on the budget are scheduled on June 27.  

The current board will do annnyyyything to limit criticism.  There was one interesting comment from a Malibu mucky-muck.  

"Good morning, I am addressing number 8. My name is Bruce Silverstein, I am the mayor pro team of Malibu but I am speaking today in my personal capacity as a member of the public and a resident of the county, I only have a minute to make my comments, so I'll be blunt -- what the fuck were you thinking?" That's a quote. 

"Now that I have your attention," he went on to describe where in the wad of written public comments he could be located and (page 33 of 62 pages) but made a point that many of the "yes" votes were intended to be "no."  

He went on, "Please listen to your constituents, I do that all the time. There are consequences if you don't."   

Strong language for a mayor.  Feisty.  One wonders if he was listening during the April 11 Malibu City Council meeting when the whistleblower... 

After signing up to speak at the first opportunity in two weeks because the board canceled for the umpteenth time it's regular meeting, replaced it with a special meeting, and then canceled the special meeting as well.  

When it was my turn, I started speaking but the Board could not to hear me.   

This is called pulling a "Barry Johnson."  wherein, the agency clerk or committee chair, accidentally on purpose puts a speaker on mute.  

It's a kind of once in a great while gaslighting trick.  You can't do it everytime, or cc FBI. 

What results is a temporary freak out, by the speaker... and demand to be reconnected into the cue. If one copies the District Attorney and FBI, you usually get results. Copying the FBI is very zeitgeisty.  Especially, when residents may feel that they are being treated improperly by out-of-state lawyers, and facing wild and false allegations.  cc Joe Fender, LASD.

Nobody, including big law Duane Morris LLP and medium law, Munger Tolles, can claim to be above the law.  

Though, Richard Drooyan, who was the Board's lawyer when Jail Violence bubbled up and he jumped in probono before morphing into the board's jail monitor. I asked for the deal and the rest is history. My attorney pocketed a quick $25,000 and we tallied over $1.6M payed out to Drooyan.  The county's explanation of why they reversed is interesting.  

"Upon initial review and receipt of the responsive law firm invoices, it was understood internally that the records were exempt from disclosure due to the attorney-client privilege. This initial understanding was further supported by the discovery that the invoices related to pending and active cases. However, after further review, it was determined that Mr. Drooyan was not retained by the County of Los Angeles. Instead, Mr. Drooyan was selected by the Superior Court of the State of California.  The only reason the County of Los Angeles is in receipt of responsive records is that the County of Los Angeles was ordered to pay the invoices remitted by Mr. Drooyan. Due to the very special circumstances surrounding Mr. Drooyan's retention, the County of Los Angeles has now been able to confirm the records sought by Mr. Preven are not subject to the attorney-client privilege or the attorney work-product privilege. Therefore, as a result of the County's search, review and investigation, please find the non-privileged requests enclosed."  

The Attorney General, Rob Bonta, who can't deny he's aware of the trouble in Tinseltown, is busy.   

In case you forgot, he seems to have a structural problem of his own responding to complaints from the public about local officials' activities.  Except he's happy to poke around the Sheriff's backyard.  #CBSLA 

To be 100% fair, we did get a response on the grievous concerns about the YMCA of Greater Los Angeles retaliation matter.  

An invitation to rejoin the Y should coincide with this year's fundraising campaign to be kicked off presumably by Staffer B John Lee and President Nury Martinez.  

The Board's comprehensive deflavorization of public comment has brought them to a point where routinely, even after shocking deprivation, they cannot even fill the 90 minutes. They ran out of speakers in the cue, with time remaining.  

Not even in-house ACLU advocate Andres Kwon was there. Eunissess Hernandez has been removed as a commissioner by Sheila.  Probably because she's running for office. Gil Cedillo could be in big trouble.  

Watch for a comprehensive formalization of the draconian reductions put in place under Sheila Kuehl's leadership. 

Expect more egregious cuts in public comment... coming soon!   


This guy is not a Nazi: 

Before going into journalism, I spent thirty years as a television writer and producer—and member of the Writers’ Guild of America—living in Studio City, where I raised my two children. As Ai Weiwei the Chinese contemporary artist, documentarian, and activist once put it, “Everything is art. Everything is politics.”

I have spent much of the last decade fighting government corruption in Los Angeles, as a writer, member of the Studio City Neighborhood Council, and winner of two landmark government transparency legal cases against the City and County of Los Angeles. 

In 2016, as a co-plaintiff with the ACLU, I won a case at the California Supreme Court requiring the County of Los Angeles to disclose legal bills paid to outside private law firms. I wrote about the journey and try to enforce the rules we fought to have clarified.  Like everything else, it is an enduring struggle. 

In 2019, I won a Brown Act case against the City of Los Angeles protecting the right that all members of the public have a right to be heard at public meetings. As I told Matt Hamilton who profiled me as Citizen Preven when at USC Annenberg, the elected officials here promote a 'less is more' narrative when it comes to public input.  

As a self-described watchdog over the largest county in the nation with over eleven million residents, I resumed publishing two columns a week on CityWatchLA in January 2021, while continuing to attend most City Council and County Board meetings.  

The harder it became to deliver public comments, the easier it became to write accountability columns, because, as one of my columns was titled, Too Much Oversight Is Never Enough.

My brother Joshua Preven and I had taken a break from CityWatch following a dizzying three years and several LA Press Club Awards, including two in 2018 with Alleen Brown, for a deep-dive Intercept article entitled, "Los Angeles blames wildfire on homeless, but evicting them won’t solve the real problems: climate change and urban sprawl"    

The indictment of Mitchell Englander, the council member from CD12 signaled a return to the columns. Permanent Restraining Order was published on January 25 as an open letter to the Federal Judge John Walters prior to his sentencing Englander for lying to federal authorities. Turns out there was a lot to say...

I persuaded Joshua to collaborate on "The Pandemic Should Not be Used as a Pretext to Muffle the Voices of the ‘Inconvenient Public. By limiting the agendas and denying general public comment, the current meeting schedules of our local jurisdictions were falling short of the Governor’s requirement to use 'sound discretion' to reasonably 'maximize transparency and access.’ We're hoping Pretext, as we call it, will be recognized in the category of Online Political Commentary. 

By following the agendas of the City Council, the County Board, the Metro board, and others, there's always an abundance of material and gratitude for being able to play the role that I feel very privileged to have played:  part scribe, part opinion writer, part whistleblower... and, as the LA Weekly once put it, a 'gadfly extraordinaire.'  

Writing Eric Preven’s Notebook, which I turn in on Sundays and Wednesdays and is posted on Mondays and Thursdays has afforded me a platform to speak truth to power and give a voice to the voiceless.

I am forever grateful to the readers and members of the public who pay attention.  

(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch. The opinions expressed by Eric Preven are solely his and not the opinions of CityWatch)