ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - The six-dollar single-use water bottle offered in the pews of the James Earl Jones BroadwayTheater [“This is CNN!”] resulted in a prompt on the handheld credit card reader for a 10 percent tip. Nope.
The $12 dollar jar of Cowboy Candy, a delicious cherry pepper concoction purchased at Balsam Farms on the side of a road, required the cardholder to choose a tip of 10%, 20%, or 25%. To be fair there is a “skip” button.
Since the customer picked the product and brought it to the register to pay for it, was a gratuity really necessary? No.
The cost of attending a Broadway show in New York is almost embarrassing to say out loud. In a rare circumstance, however, the show “Gutenberg” in previews last week was absolutely spectacular. The lol musical featured two of the amazing performers from “The Book of Mormon” playing dozens of characters and wearing a combined 107 baseball caps.
Smart Speaker: Just two actors? Is this a cynical plan to save money? The cost of mounting a Broadway show has risen into the stratosphere so if a producer can do a jury of twelve with only two jurors... well done, your honor!
Josh Gad, who stars in this tour de force alongside Andrew Rannels told the New York Times that when Director, Alex Timbers, sent them a photo of the 107 hats, each inscribed with the name of one of the show’s characters, he’d “tried to back out.”
It’s a good thing he didn’t because these two are heading directly for Tony Town. I have not seen such chemistry since, Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Mel Brooks and Zero Mostel!
Smart Speaker: Englander and Lee!
As many readers recall, Mitchell Englander, a former Los Angeles City Councilmember, and nephew to the most influential City Hall Lobbyists, was sentenced to prison on federal corruption charges and served his time.
Now, Los Angeles City Councilmember John Lee has been accused of violating government ethics laws as part of an investigation by the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.
Mr. Lee, who worked with Englander at the 12th District, which encompasses the northwest half of the San Fernando Valley, is alleged to have accepted gifts in excess of the government-set gift limit, allegedly failing to report gifts, misusing his position, and aiding and abetting another person’s misuse of a city position.
Mr. Lee who is defiant and does not remember the night out in Vegas, stood proudly on Wednesday alongside Nithya Raman, Hugo Soto Martinez, and Kenneth Mejia to honor selected Filipinos and the wider community.
Smart Speaker: Mabuhay [Translation: long live! Or Aloha!]
Nithya Raman (CD4), Hugo Soto-Martinez (CD13), and John Lee (CD12) who is facing Ethics violations gather to clean up at one of the city's multiple Filipino presentations. Raman and Soto-Martinez are not facing charges...yet.
Everybody In The Pool [Hello, Karo!]:
The Aline Barnsdall Hollyhock House in the East Hollywood neighborhood (CD13) of Los Angeles, California, was originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright as a residence for oil heiress Aline Barnsdall. Rudolph Michael Schindler [RMS] worked very hard on the project and had many dealings with Miss Barnsdall.
November 25, 1925
Miss Aline Barnsdall
The caretaker asked me to report to you about the pool. I have made the contractor responsible for these cracks and he is repairing them without cost to you. In order to avoid any future damage, I propose to place another overflow at a lesser height. The cost for this should not be more than thirty dollars. Otherwise, the pool is in good shape and should not need any further attention.
Just heard that the Allied Architects are going to "do" the Bowl. After one has seen the Court House they designed, one knows a crime is being committed. Is there no help?
Erectile Dysfunction 1: Stick to the plan!
Mayor Bass’ Executive Directive 1 commits the City to working collaboratively to accelerate the approval of qualifying affordable housing projects.
On June 8, 2022, before Mayor Bass was elected, the City of Los Angeles implemented new local political contribution restrictions and reporting requirements for property owners, developers, and their respective principals while entitlement applications were in process, and for twelve (12) months thereafter.
In July of 2022, the new laws went into effect in response to several high-profile investigations of alleged corruption at City Hall, including allegations that developers have provided monetary and non-monetary bribes to City officials in exchange for securing discretionary development approvals.
Any applicant, property owner, or principal associated with a significant planning entitlement filing in the City of Los Angeles qualifies as a “restricted developer” and is subject to the new restriction.
Principals include all of the following for both the applicant and the property owner(s): board chair; president; chief executive officer (CEO); chief financial officer (CFO); chief operating officer (COO); an individual who serves in the functional equivalent of one of those positions; a person who owns 20% or more of the entity and/or property; and individual authorized to represent the applicant or property owner before the City Planning Department (eg: in house employee, outside consultant, attorney, lobbyist, permit expediter or similar consultant).
The contribution ban does not extend to an external board member of a developer or property owner who does not serve in a role that is functionally equivalent to one of the above positions.
Smart Speaker: What about Trustees of Harvard-Westlake School, the elite private academy that pays no taxes but has a "Who's Who" of fat cats —
City Attorney: Please specify which item you are on.
Smart Speaker: I will get back to the ED 1 or erectile dysfunction if that is what you prefer in a moment but before I do, please sit quietly or you will be removed, Mr. Groat. I want to note that Hugo Soto-Martinez (CD13) raised a very interesting point the other day during Alex Johnson’s Ethics confirmation hearing (and Rodeo protest). Hugo asked, and I’m paraphrasing, “Do you plan to work for the Fatcat corporations or working people?”
Johnson batted away the friendly fire easily, saying he would work for both, and sailed to confirmation with only two “no" votes - one from the left (Raman CD4) and one from the right Lobbyist (McCosker CD15).
City Attorney: Get on the item.
Smart Speaker: Ed Sullivan used to say, ”We have a really big show tonight."
The convo about tall apartment buildings going up in single-family neighborhoods with very little or no public process was riveting.
There seemed to be genuine disagreement.
Blumenfield came out with an opening number and concluded that what was before the council was a procedural question and that they needed to be careful about setting an unwanted precedent.
"You can't give one procedure if we like you and another if we don't like your project.”
Smart Speaker: Why not, that’s the City Hall way? It’s called local control.
Vince Bertoni, the current Planning Director of the City of Los Angeles with over 4 million residents and almost 30 years of professional planning experience, hit his mark.
City Attorney: Sir, you’re off-topic —
Smart Speaker: Everyone has an opinion on complicated Land Use matters, just like everyone has an … Asshole!
Prior to arriving in Los Angeles, Vince Bertoni was the Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Pasadena where he successfully managed Pasadena’s city planning program through a General Plan update, a comprehensive visioning process that happens just once every 20 years. He has also held lead planning posts for the cities of Beverly Hills, Santa Clarita, and Malibu.
Katy Yaroslavsky asked the City Attorney about being sued over ED1 if the council agreed with Blumenfield to politely torpedo the apartment buildings before them.
Nithya Raman rose to give a stirring speech about the credibility of the city council with “our” constituents if we do not honor “our” word.
At that point, a whistle blew representing the collective rise in blood pressure in Studio City.
In the city of Los Angeles, everyone gets a fair shake from the littlest, weakest Angeleno to the biggest and most powerful Trustee at Harvard Westlake. [Hello, Pritzker!]
Smart Speaker: I thought there were two procedures in Los Angeles. One for the connected and rich, who can afford to ply the various decision-makers with a whole registry of goodies.
If you don’t like a particular outcome or run into some legitimate public outrage, simply contact Edgar Khalatian of Mayer Brown.
Mayer Brown is the name of the firm that onboarded Los Angeles County's Department of Regional Planning, Richard Bruckner a wee tad too early resulting in…
City Attorney: This is not relevant.
Smart Speaker: Bruckner was Mark Ridley-Thomas’ bestie, a planning guy at the county. The current straight arrow over at the county in the aftermath of Bruckner is a woman named, Amy Bodek. She cut her eye teeth in Long Beach.
When a member of the public observed Mr.. Bruckner hobnobbing with a legitimate client from Watt Companies former Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and former CEO Sachi Hamai … there was a big red flag on the play.
Sheila Kuehl, who must be relaxing in retirement, underscored that the inquiry as to how long Richard Bruckner had to sit out before jumping in to lobby… was worth answering.
Under the county’s “revolving door” rules, Department Heads are barred from lobbying elected officials, high-level managers, and other decision-makers within one year of leaving county employment. Uh-oh.
The county District Attorney who has been haggling with Curren “Del Richardson” Price recently over embezzlement-related charges, kicked the inquiry over to the former City Attorney, Mike Feuer’s office. Feuer must be getting very shvitzy as the LADWP corruption fiasco percolates along in a worrisome manner.
The public thought that if the county’s public integrity division PID saw the infraction, they would fine Bruckner, the applicant maybe the supervisor, and clean up the mess. Instead, PID kicked it over to the LA City Attorney Criminal division.
As Raman said, “The credibility of “our” constituents hangs in the balance.
The city attorney’s criminal division kicked the matter right back up Grand Park to the District Attorney, who by then, had affixed a proper noseclip to block the scent. Like Sergeant Schultz from the great Hogan's Heroes, “I smell… Nothing! Nothing. "
Covington & Burling: Or Convington sic.
When the county hired a private law firm to sift through the evidence in the MRT corruption imbroglio, members of the public suggested making the Covington and Burlington retention letter public so the people could understand how much was being invested with a team of seasoned federal defense lawyers… and to do what exactly?
The fear was that this deal intended to crack down on contracting “issues” at the largest county on earth, which was a clean-up crew, dba coverup crew. The intent and purpose were to clean things up and protect the brand.
I pressed for the retention agreement because I’d found an Oregon agency agreement for a comparable investigation and report. A public hospital group had hired Covington and the agreement showed that the big dog (former US Attorney General Eric Holder) was making $2500/hour for his services. Cover-up services are pricey.
The county reacted by replacing their county counsel and giving the public the FINGER. Five FINGERS. Motion passes. Next item.
In 2019, the LA City Ethics Commission issued a $281,250 fine for former Los Angeles planning chief Michael LoGrande. Mr. LoGrande had admitted to violating city ethics laws by lobbying planning department officials just months after leaving his job running the agency. [Like Bruckner!]
Former Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz was fined $2,500 for asking a city commissioner to host a campaign event for his 2021 run.
Former Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander was fined nearly $80,000 by the city's Ethics Commission for shocking behavior in Las Vegas. Jeffery Daar, now president of the commission said, “The proposed stipulation demonstrates that no one, including elected council members, is above the law in this city.”
Smart Speaker: What?
The 52-year-old ex-councilman was fined $79,830 with officials claiming he did not consult the commission about how to comply with the law and committed actions that were “deliberate and indicate an intent to conceal the violations and deceive the public.”
Leeor Maciborski, a real estate investor and managing partner of multiple limited liability companies (LLCs), caused 13 LLCs to contribute to Mitch O’Farrell’s City Council campaign. Under City law, those contributions resulted in five aggregated contributions that exceeded the per-person contribution limit. Maciborski was fined $17,000.
In another case, former City employee Jimmy Blackman (Blackman) was fined $22,500 for violating the City’s revolving door restrictions. Less than one year after departing City service, Blackman accepted compensation from the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112 to advocate on its behalf before several City officials in an attempt to influence City action.
“The campaign finance and governmental ethics laws are designed to protect the integrity of the City’s elections and decision-making processes. Today, the Ethics Commission upheld those goals by holding violators accountable,” said Sergio Perez, who was the Director of Enforcement at Ethics and now, as the revolving door spins, he works for Kenneth Mejia.
City Attorney: Your time has expired.
(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch. The opinions of Mr. Preven are not necessarily those of CityWatchLA.com.)