LA GOVERNMENT WATCH-Over this past year, our contributions to CityWatch have focused on a disturbing pattern that has shown how elements of our Los Angeles City government have been working against the public interest for years. Here’s a re-cap of what needs to change as we move into 2017:
- No sole source contracts or private sales of surplus property under any condition. No exceptions. No contracts let without Requests for Proposal (RFPs). Apart from being required by law, they are the life blood of good government, because they secure the best value for the public, while also ensuring that every member of that public gets a clean shot at winning contracts. The same is true of public auctions of surplus property.
- No closed sessions of the City Council -- for any reason -- not even those permitted by the Brown Act (i.e. litigation, real estate negotiations and so on.)
- No attorney-client privilege for Officers of the City (except in their capacities as private citizens.) Again, all litigation -- regardless of the dollar amount -- should be conducted in open session. This would help prevent the kind of prolonged litigation that has recently cost the City over $250 million.
- No contracting with secretive LLCs. If you want to do business with Los Angeles, you have to take your mask off. It is preposterous how many entities there are with whom the City currently does business without knowing the most basic of facts about them, including the precise identity of the owner.
- No enforcement role for the Ethics Commission. Campaign finance laws etc. should be enforced by the DA. The Enforcement Division of the Ethics Commission routinely violates the Constitutional rights of members of the public. The part of the Ethics Commission that maintains the database of donations etc. should be kept intact.
- No absolute power for the City Council President in making committee assignments. Such power gives the President too much leverage over the rest of the Council and results in a stifling of debate (because everyone has to tow the line or suffer retaliation.)
- No use of parking fines in the General Fund. Such fines, not to exceed $35, should go to a fund used exclusively for infrastructure projects.
- No back-room lawsuit settlements. These are used as a way to kick-back money to the plaintiff. Settlements need to be dealt with in open session.
- No further violations of Rule 93 -- violations which have resulted in the public’s cameras in City Hall that are being operated by public employees -- at the direction of Herb Wesson – so that the members of the public are videotaped from a face-obscuring distance.
- No commencing of City Council meetings with the settling of liens against members of the public who suffer humiliation and unspeakably huge monetary penalties.
(Eric Preven and Joshua Preven are public advocates for better transparency in local government. Eric is a Studio City based writer-producer. Joshua is a teacher.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.