ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - My heart goes out to Supervisor Molina and her family as her ongoing battle against cancer intensifies. I thought the best way to share the memories about commenting before her when she served on the county board, would be to show and tell.
Jim Newton of the Los Angeles Times captured a key detail in his article about the public comment at the County Board of Supervisors in 2011. He wrote about a public comment that I had delivered saying I "used my allotted time to raise questions about the county’s legal bills and to complain that a report about those bills had been delayed."
It's true, and became an enduring theme for me, holding municipal lawyers accountable. But the credit goes to Supervisor Molina who had started the campaign years before I arrived, to get the office of county counsel to be more transparent.
How did it go?
What needs to happen? The County needs to disclose what they are paying private attorneys and the County Supes ought to waive the attorney-client privilege, but the big one is not technical.
Gloria Molina told the Los Angeles Times, recently, what Los Angeles needs to do at present is “Show real leadership, for a change.”
Nearly ten years ago, Gloria Molina chastised the board of supervisor boys after calling out an excessive $800,000 (8%) administrative fee for the county's community development and housing authority, to spend $10 million in HUD money.
Gloria Molina: It's really shameful. They already do this work. And I just can't believe they'd take any administrative money into it. It’s children's money.
Mark Ridley-Thomas: All right. Thanks very much.
Gloria Molina: Yes. I'd like to abstain as it's a new term around here.
Mark Ridley-Thomas: A term of art.
Zev Yaroslavsky: Not new.
Mark Ridley-Thomas: New and improved.
Zev Yaroslavsky: It hasn't been new since Ridley-Thomas got here. [Laughter].
Mark Ridley-Thomas: Well, I'm glad to know that I've made a contribution. Thank you so much
Pro tip: for reporters and activists: Check your favorite politicians' abstention record, and then see if you can figure out why they withhold their vote.
There was a period in county history when the onscreen chemistry between Lee Baca and Supervisor Gloria Molina was nasty. Very nasty. By comparison, Sheila Kuehl and Sheriff Alex Villanueva came across as preening lovebirds.
At one meeting, Supervisor Molina asked a point-blank question of staff about the James Austin report--an early proposal to NOT rebuild Men's Central by reducing and distributing the jail population to smaller facilities. Staff had no idea, so I texted a young ACLU lawyer who I'd noticed deliverIng sharp public comments. [Greatest Sheriff In America]
Mike Antonovich who served on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors from December 1, 1980 – November 30, 2016, enjoyed watching a self-described liberal like me going after his colleagues Zev Yaroslavsky, Gloria Molina, and the wind-king Mark Ridley-Thomas. And though, Don Knabe was on the Antonovich team, “better him than me.”
It didn’t work out, I tortured Antonovich about his sneaky animal care and control expansion and busted him on various Steve Cooley shenanigans—they’ve been besties since college.
I was furious that Antonovich had put a victim's item in the middle of a jail violence moment. I called it out.
And Mr. Antonovich turned on me and threw me under the bus as disrespecting victims.
I returned on another item and called him out quite harshly but effectively… reminding him that I had also been a victim, as my dear friend had been murdered in Hollywood.
We were a team!
At one meeting Supervisor Molina went toe to toe with Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. She blurted, "Which is what I told our lawyer when he kept going into closed session to discuss this, which was not an appropriate closed session item. We don’t evaluate this individual. “ My ears perked up.
Supervisor Molina was talking about a plan to enhance the compensation package of Laura Zucker who worked in the County Arts.
The LA Times reported that the DA found that it was not improper for the board to discuss the matter in closed session, but that the supervisors violated the state’s open-meeting law, known as the Ralph M. Brown Act, by failing to include those discussions on the public agenda before the meeting.
"Eric Preven, a county resident who often scrutinizes board business and unsuccessfully ran for supervisor, filed a complaint with the district attorney’s public integrity division after hearing Molina’s comments this summer. He said he was pleased with the recent finding. “This goes to accountability,” Preven said.
Takes Two to Tango, Three for a Quorum:
But it was not always a lovefest, obviously. In one meeting, another public commenter said something deeply offensive and was ordered to be removed from the podium by Supervisor Knabe. I confirmed his comments were ugly but advised the Supervisor to lighten up. Supervisor Molina dismissed my comment quickly, saying “You're an idiot.”
When Zev Yaroslavsky stepped in to restore order, "Mr. Preven: We don't need a Vin Scully down here doing play by play.” I clapped back, “I apologize, Supervisor Yaroslavsky, Supervisor Molina took a fifteen-minute phone call during her county risk report, and I got nervous.”
Ah, the good old days.
We miss your 'real leadership,' Supervisor Molina and hope that you and your family make the most of the precious time remaining.
(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)