Wed, Jun

The Trial of Dr. Mark Ridley-Thomas


ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - Mr. City Attorney: "Mr. Harland, Please be quiet. I am sure you are annoying someone. (off-camera voice) There, see a person said, 'yes.'"   

Council President Paul Krekorian:  "Next speaker." 

Smart speaker: “Whose house?”   

Public:  “Our house!”   

Mr. City Attorney. “Please be quiet.”    

Public:  "Who can shake the foundation of heaven?" 

Public meetings around the country have grown more contentious, fueled by pandemic-related disruption and deepening political division.  Not to mention racist scandals and FBI investigations.  

Experts say the best way to encourage civil behavior is to treat people civilly in the first place, and in a way that they perceive to be fair. Imagine the difference if an agency, instead of getting defensive, said, ‘This person is not feeling heard’, and then said, ‘Tell us more’. 

A 71-year-old woman from Massachusetts, who described herself as civic-minded and oppositional won a lawsuit, striking down a “civility code” for public comment at meetings, which required “respectful and courteous” discourse “free of rude, personal or slanderous remarks.”    

Decorum, the new decision concluded, was not a top priority for the cousins' John and Samuel Adams when they drafted Article 19 in the Massachusetts Constitution, ratified in 1780.  

By laying out the right to request “redress of the wrongs done them, and of the grievances they suffer,” the justices noted, they aimed to protect the colonists’ freedom to rail against King George III, disparaged at the time as “the Royal Brute,” in a profane and ungracious manner.   

“There was nothing respectful or courteous about the public assemblies of the revolutionary period,” the court wrote in its opinion. “There was also much that was rude and personal, especially when it was directed at the representatives of the king and the king himself.”   

They should simply adopt time limits for public oral comment, supplemented with other routes for feedback (emails, letters, etc) where use is unlimited.   

Etiquette can be a figleaf for tyranny.  There's a tightrope to walk in maintaining civil order and not using that as a means to repress. Walking it is the responsibility of the public body. It's not in office merely to make decisions, but to respect public governance and involvement.   

If a judge can demand civility in a courtroom, and even hold violators in contempt, why should different rules apply outside the courtroom?  Short answer: First Amendment. 

Derogatory comments disguised as policy criticism, are par for the course. 


Committee for a Better L.A.: 

Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose attorneys have been reportedly calling him Doctor Ridley-Thomas during his federal corruption trial is showing a little grey hair around the ears. Very professorial.  He's facing 19 charges related to steering county contracts to USC’s social work school in exchange for benefits for his son. 

Folks are shaking their heads wondering about the surprising move, especially for a case that straddles a private university and the largest county in the nation, that no representative of L.A. County was called to testify before the jury.  None? 

No deputies of Ridley-Thomas were interviewed by the FBI, nor did any testify. The thinking goes: deputies of Supervisors are likely to show some level of loyalty to their boss.  

Especially, when the boss is a highly regarded retaliation expert. Do people remember the famous “Letter of Contrition” from old Mark Saladino?  He was the former county counsel who had a temporary lapse in judgment and filed and spoke out about a series of complaints about the Board of Supervisors.  Once, Skip Miller of Miller Barondess, LLP got involved (he works quietly and without transparency) Mr. Saladino came to his senses and had a bout of contrition. 

When I asked for that Letter of Contrition, Skipper delivered it within five minutes of being asked. Now that's county service!





2024 Mental Health Ballot Initiative: 

There is a shortage of Adderall, but that has not stopped Governor Newsom from cutting the prices for Insulin via a historic sole source agreement, which may be evidence that we are not as smart as we thought we were following the global pandemic.  

As my nephew reminds me, Johny who ate too much sugar and got a stomach ache, eventually learned his lesson. I am very supportive of arranging for a dramatic cut in insulin prices, but at what cost? 

Governor Newsom is also proposing a 2024 ballot initiative to improve how California treats mental illness, substance abuse, and homelessness.  He’s calling for a Bond to build state-of-the-art mental health treatment residential settings in the community to house Californians with mental illness and substance use disorders and to create housing for homeless veterans.  

Great idea!   

His plan to modernize the Mental Health Services Act will require at least $1 billion every year for behavioral health housing and care. Great!  

The thing about durable Television stars is that in every episode they learn, but the very next week they are required to forget the lesson they learned, otherwise, "you have no show!" This Groundhog Day phenomenon is an essential ingredient to a memorable show.

Remembering the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act: 

AI has long-term memory problems. And engineers aren't just trying to help machines remember more things, they're trying to figure out how to teach machines what they need to remember and what they can forget. 

The story of how the Lanterman-Petris-Short act came to pass is an old chestnut and it’s worth repeating as Governor Newsom has vowed to finally grapple with our mental health crisis here in California. 

Prior to 1967, California’s mental health system looked very different than it does now. Many more individuals with mental health disabilities lived in state hospitals and large facilities, often for long periods of their life. Think "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" or "Skid Row." 

Then California passed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (Welfare and Institutions Code Sections 5000 et seq). Named after its authors, State Assemblyman Frank Lanterman and California State Senators Nicholas C. Petris and Alan Short, the LPS Act sought to “end the inappropriate, indefinite, and involuntary commitment of persons with mental health disorders.”  

It also established a right to prompt psychiatric evaluation and treatment, in some situations, and set out strict due process protections for mental health clients. People have heard of the LPS: “5150”s, 72-hour holds for evaluation and assessment; and “5250”s, 14-day holds for intensive treatment.   

With all the sneaking around at City Hall, I thought it would be interesting to share a glance at the proverbial sausage factory without the public around.  

An amazing interview with Art Bolton re: the midnight passage of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act in which he tells how the deal happened at the last minute, without analysis or public comment.    

"People were disgusted. We wanted to terminate the old commitment system and make it so if you can't demonstrate they're a danger... How? The legislators asked the psychiatrists...how long should it take to diagnose that someone is mentally ill? Nobody can predict, is the reality, but they agreed on approximately 72 hours.    

The Lanertman-Petris was intended to be the Magna Carta for the commitment system. But ending the commitment of patients doesn't mean you’re solving the problem. And the reality was that it would require money and the counties in California did not want to change the commitment system.  

They didn't want private entities potentially getting some of their work. They felt threatened. The Bill passed in the assembly but stalled in the senate and was finally bottled up in committee.  

Senator Alan Short also had a bill that the counties want. . . that amended the funding formula. . . from 50/50 to 75/25 and the Short plan was to make it 90% funded by state/ 10% by counties. The counties really needed that bill." 

Mr. Bolton was sent by Frank Lanterman: "I walked into Senators Short's office; he was a drinker. . . so he poured me a Scotch. I told him, our bill is bottled up, your bill is important too. We'll take yours and amend into it all the provisions and move it as the Lanterman-Petris and Short act.   

It was the last night of the session. At midnight, the legislature was going to adjourn.” Lanterman asked Art Bolton to sit in. "The third guy, a real Nazi named Schmitz, John Birch Society. . .a very conservative guy.”  

He said, "I've been looking at this. . . I think the commitment system is terrible, it sounds like a Russian thing, they find someone they don't agree with, maybe a political prisoner and they stick him in a gulag somewhere out in Siberia, label him mentally ill and he's gone. And this looks like the same kind of thing to me. I like it, but I don't like the rest of this garbage with these regional programs and alternatives. . . That whole thing is going to cost a lot of money. And I don't trust it anyway. But if you eliminate the service provisions of what you're going to do. I won't support it if it's got money in it, but I will support the bill if you trim it down, take the money out."   

"Well, that broke the deadlock and we walked out of that room. Lanterman says to me, “Arthur, do you think you can revise this bill, in time for. . .you know, we're adjourning in a few hours here. I said, ‘Oh, yeah.’ We'll rewrite the whole damn thing, Frank. We'll do it.”  

Bolton had his trusted staff with him, the lawyer. . . "and we figure we can cut and slice and fix this bill." But then it comes to our attention that all bills at the time that were sent before the legislative bodies, especially when they are under time pressure, like the last night of the session, must be accompanied by an analysis by the non-partisan group that looks at budget stuff. The Legislative Analysts' office.    

Because a typical legislator is not going sit on the floor and read through fifty pages of legal gobbledygook, they want a one-page document that tells them if it is going cost money. . .or not, from an authoritative source. And it's always on a green piece of paper, and it sits on top of every bill.    

So Bolton turned to his trust secretary, Connie Gephard, and said, “Connie, find some green paper!”   

And he wrote an analysis of the bill, but rather than calling it a "Legislative Analysis," he called it a "Bill Analysis" He wrote a few sentences, really short that said the bill would not cost money.  

Staff copied it onto green paper and put one on top of everybody's bill and that's how we passed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. That's how that happened.    

Breathtaking, when you consider the impact, but Bolton had the button: "I don't know if that is a crime or not, but the statute of limitations must have lapsed."  

LA's Sister Cities and the year adopted:

Eilat, Israel (1959)  

Nagoya, Japan (1959)  

Salvador, Brazil (1962)  

Bordeaux, France (1964)

Berlin, Germany (1967)

Lusaka, Zambia (1968)  

Mexico City, Mexico (1969)

Auckland, New Zealand (1971)  

Busan, South Korea (1971)  

Mumbai, India (1972)  

Tehran, Iran (1972)  

Taipei, Taiwan (1979)  

Guangzhou, China (1981)

Athens, Greece (1984)  

Saint Petersburg, Russia (1984)  

Vancouver, Canada (1986)

Giza, Egypt (1989)  

Jakarta, Indonesia (1990)  

Kaunas, Lithuania (1991)  

Makati, Philippines (1992)  

Split, Croatia (1993)

San Salvador, El Salvador (2005)  

Beirut, Lebanon (2006)  

Ischia, Campania, Italy (2006)  

Yerevan, Armenia (2007)


Trial Parade:  

Ben Platt, who went to Harvard-Westlake, is now appearing at the Bernard B. Jacob Theatre in a musical called “Parade” that tells the story of Leo Frank, a Jewish pencil-factory manager in Georgia who in 1913 was wrongfully convicted of, and later lynched for raping and murdering a white girl.    

It's a Revival with a book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown.  The musical is a dramatization of the 1913 trial and imprisonment, and the 1915 lynching. 

The consensus of researchers is that Mr. Frank was wrongly convicted and a janitor, Jim Conley, was likely the actual murderer. 

At the time, local papers were the dominant source of information. And if you can believe it, the supposed solidarity of the Jews for Frank, even if he was guilty, allegedly caused Gentile solidarity against him.   

The case stoked a real wave of anti-semitism and attracted national press attention spurring the creation of the Anti-Defamation League and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. 

Following his conviction, a group of prominent men organized themselves into the "Vigilance Committee" and openly planned to kidnap Frank from prison.  They consisted of 28 men with various skills: an electrician to cut the prison wires, car mechanics to keep the cars running, and a locksmith, “a telephone man, a medic, a hangman, and a lay preacher.”   

They busted him out one night, drove him to a pre-arranged site, and hanged Mr. Frank the following day.  

An epilogue is projected on the stage stating that Frank's case was reopened in 2019 and is still ongoing. 

At Your Service, Ignoring the Public:

There was a "serial bungle" at a recent City Council meeting.  On a very important item to cover the ongoing costs of putting displaced Angelenos in hotels, following a tragic fireworks mishap, the agenda mislabeled the name of the company providing the rooms.  

The correct name is Onni, a large Canadian development firm founded by a man whose first name was, Inno. 

Onni, is the man's name spelled backward.  

I live on a street called, Reklaw Drive, which is the name Walker spelled backward.   lol. 

The problem arises, when Onni, which has a lot of business with and before the City of Los Angeles Council, is repeatedly mislabeled on public meeting agendas.  

Whenever a trusted partner appears on an agenda their name should be spelled correctly.   

Spelling the name of the company, as Omni, as happened on Friday is disrespectful to Inno and the public.  

Contract C­138578 is not with Omni 888 Olive St LP for continued temporary housing, the contract is with Onni 88 Olive St LP. 

Kava is Avak backward.  Kava is a beverage or extract made from the Piper methysticum plant. In the South Pacific, it's a popular drink that is used in ceremonies for relaxation 

Readying Your Close-Up:

For many years, the city and eventually the county were in business with Granicus. More than 6,000 global government agencies have chosen Granicus to modernize their online services, website & CMS, digital communications strategies, public meeting experience, and records management.   

Granicus is in business with 2,500 Local governments, 200 special districts, 48 of 50 of the largest cities in America, 450 counties, and 250 school districts.   They big, dog!  

Cha-ching. Even private equity has gotten involved.  PrimeGov   

Somehow they've merged with or partnered with Prime Gov to provide a deeply integrated citizen engagement platform that unifies the power of public meeting participation and agenda management with transparent and actionable data from cross-city departments. Cool.  

The CEO of Rock Solid, the parent company, is Tom Spengler.  He has a long history in gov tech, having co-founded Granicus in 1999. He also sits on the boards of other tech companies such as Propylon and Ascendify.   Nice!  

If you click on any Los Angeles City Council or Committee agenda, very often, a viewable Youtube link will pop right up on the screen. This is a very useful feature. 

As local governments strive to improve our public decision-making processes, Rock Solid is really helping. Thx.  

Quick question:  As a recognized critic I have repeatedly requested that a problem be corrected with virtually every single agenda. In lay terms, the rules are long and duplicative and so confusing.  You would think the City Clerk could handle it, but... 

This problem arises on EVERY SINGLE city agenda for over two years.  

The sections and their word count are shown below.  The sections shown in Bold should be cut, but neither Rock Solid nor her subsidiaries or the gatekeepers from City Hall...  will fix it.  Why not? 

You can't fake clarity.  

AGENDAS  286 words 







RULE 16 MOTIONS 56 words


(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)