21
Sun, Apr

A Wasted Day: An Eyewitness Account of an LA City Council Meeting

LA POLITICS

AN ANGRY ANGELENO - On Friday, I wasted (and suffered) my whole day at an LA City Council (which has 15 members) meeting so that you wouldn't have to go...you're welcome!  The meeting started a little late, there were 11 council members (out of 15) present AT THE VERY BEGINNING of the meeting, according to the LA City Clerk Representative.  How can you call roll and NOT have the members have to say “Aye” or “Yes” to prove that they are actually in the room??  Very few of them were in their big office chairs at the front when roll was called.  City Clerk Rep: “Blumenfield, de Leon, Harris-Dawson, Hernandez, Hutt, Krekorian (City Council President leading the meeting), Lee, McOsker, Padilla, Park, Price, Raman, Rodriguez, Soto-Martinez, Yaroslavsky.  11 members present and a quorum, Mr. President.”  Now, what in the heck was the point of that?  He read ALL of the names of ALL of the Members of the LA City Council really fast; we are NOT told which FOUR are  ABSENT. 

He mentioned “quorum.” What's that?  Without a quorum (the minimum number of people/members needed), no business (decisions) can be conducted.  Quorum is a majority of the members, which would be 8 out of 15, UNLESS provided otherwise.  Sometimes it's more than the majority, or, in this case, more than 8.  That's gonna be VERY important this particular Friday.  For one, members are absent at the very beginning:  Katy Yaroslavsky (who might be trying to dodge controversial Measure HLA, which she supports) and Marqueece H-D (who is running for reelection right now and has also endorsed Measure HLA) come to mind.  This meeting is SO poorly managed by Krekorian and Blumenfield (his backup) and SO much time is wasted by shameless long-winded pandering/campaigning blowhard egomaniac members of the city council, that THIS meeting will completely go off the rails time-wise.  Members will leave.  There is a Regular Meeting (which gets 3 days notice) followed by a Special Meeting (which only gets 24 hours notice)...this is common.  The items that did not previously get a hearing (on both agendas) require a 10 member quorum!  When I leave after maybe 4 and a half hours, there are very few members in their seats and very few people in the room....and the Special Meeting hasn't even been held. 

There's another twist.  Many years ago (before Patrick Soon-Shiong bought and destroyed the paper), the LA Times exposed something:  the LA City Council Members were voting without being in the room.  How is that possible?  Computer program:  they stick their votes into the computer beforehand.  Now, by law, they can't just disappear and still be able to vote and count for quorum.  They claimed that they were in the back rooms and able to see/hear the meeting.  This practice should have been LEGALLY CHALLENGED years ago.  Members of the public are voicing their opinions to EMPTY chairs.  Legally, they would have to be watching/listening, but how can you prove they're not doing that...they're not in the room.  The whole thing is absolutely ridiculous.  And THIS particular FRIDAY meeting would be a great test case to take the city to court...a meeting that completely went off the rails.  This is an example of the elected LA City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto working for THEM and not for US.  Because if she worked for us, she would PUBLICLY say, “Sorry, you gotta be IN THE ROOM for voting and quorum purposes.”  In other words, members of the public can see you!  BTW, the Times exposing all of that...THAT is what they should have won a Pulitzer for...hopefully they did, but I doubt it.  Because, as far as the Nury Martinez scandal, that Pulitzer should have gone to Jon Peltz, who came out with the story on the same day, a smidgen later, but WITH AUDIO CLIPS, which the Times did NOT have the courage to do.  And City Council Leadership at the time retaliated against the Times for publishing that...no more going behind the velvet ropes and hanging out with us!  At least for a little while. 

Here's a strange thing.  When the City Clerk Rep runs through the Agenda for Krekorian at the beginning of the meeting, he says that “There's a request to hold Item 6 on the desk.”  That item ALREADY HAD a hearing.  Normally, if a council member wants to OPEN such an item for a hearing, they do so publicly...Hernandez and Raman will shortly do so.  So, why is this Item 6 (related indirectly to Measure HLA) being opened up to a Public Hearing ANONYMOUSLY at this meeting by the CITY CLERK rep? He should say who put in the request.  SO shady!  And when the City Clerk Rep goes through the Agenda, he notes that Item 13 requires 10 votes and involves accepting payment of a 30,000 settlement by Downtown Live LLC....sounds suspicious.  And Hernandez says (at the beginning of the meeting) that she's gonna put in a substitute motion for Item 14, but her team is still putting the finishing touches on it?  How is that legal?  How can they vote on it without letting the public see the substitute motion well in advance? 

Blumenfield gets to make the first “presentation.”  Dr Arani (with his family present next to him and the council member).  Blumenfield “thank[s] [his] good friends John and Barbara Ardalan for introducing [him] to Dr Arani and his wife and four kids who are standing here with me today.” 

So, of course, I jump onto Google.  There's a John and Barbara Ardalan that appear to own a home in Malibu.  Sounds about right.  I'm also seeing Woodland Hills pop up and that's repped by Blumenfield.  At first I thought this guy getting the award (probably Siavash Arani, thank you google) was Blumenfield's doctor or a staffer's doctor.  There is an Arani Medical HPV & STD Center in Los Angeles, btw.  But now I'm wondering if this doctor is just connected to a Blumenfield backer.  So, I go to the CEC (LA City Ethics Commission) website.  John Ardalan has given money to LA City politicians going back to 2007...almost 7,000.  I haven't checked his State contributions, because both Krekorian and Blumenfield were in the State Legislature.  But, while they've been on the LA City Council, Ardalan gave Bob Blumenfield 800 dollars TWICE, for a total of 1600 dollars...and he gave the guy presiding over this meeting, Krekorian, 200 dollars.  Both Krekorian and Blumenfield are termed out (they can't run for city council again), so he's not giving them any money these days...maybe he's giving money to people they know...I haven't checked. 

But it gets better.  The Doctor being honored...and all of us are wondering why...appears to have given 250 dollars to Blumenfield in mid 2022.  Residential zip code is given: 90077.  And then I found a Press Release online!  I did notice that Blumenfield was SO effusive about what a great doctor Arani is, in such medical detail, that it made me worry that it could lead to litigation against the City if somebody chooses this Dr for treatment after watching what is essentially an infomercial on the City's Cable Channel that broadcasts these meetings.  I'm surprised Blumenfield isn't worried about litigation.  Did his staff do due diligence here or is he just spouting off copy that was given to him by the Dr?  Did the City Attorney's Office check Blumenfield's script?...because it seems like a minefield. 

Back to that press release I found online:  Blumenfield mentioned that all of the council members signed the Big Pretty Certificate.  The Dr mentions Mayor Bass at least twice.  Don't believe she's in the room and did she sign the certificate?  Also, I don't believe Ardalan or Arani gave her any money, so I wouldn't expect her to be there or sign it.  [But maybe she signs off on the Agenda Item eventually, the giving of the honor?   But that press release I found online is entitled “Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass Honors Dr Siavash Arani for Healthcare Innovations” (dated February 16, 2024) and says (among other things) that “Dr Arani...was recognized by Mayor Karen Bass, alongside council members from all 15 districts...” [maybe the non-awarding council members should rethink signing these things or at least the ones that may get them into legal hot water]  Then a selected quote from Blumenfield.  Then a quote from the Dr: “I am deeply honored to receive recognition from Mayor Karen Bass and the City of Los Angeles...”  Then a quote from John Ardalan (who gave Blumenfield 1600 bucks). 

Then there's a quote from Mayor Bass!  I find it hard to believe this came from her: “He has developed strategies to treat patients with HPV-related tumors. His innovative approach to treating HPV with a high success rate has made him a pioneer and internationally recognized physician in the field.”  WOW.  Just wondering:  If I give Blumenfield 1600 (800 dollars twice), can I get a certificate for being such a good journalist and include a mayoral quote in my press release? 

So, HOW MUCH Official LA City Council Meeting TIME did that take up?  Roughly 3 and a half minutes.  Who's next?  MORE THAN TWENTY MINUTE presentation to a HS Football team , its band, cheer squad, etc. (including the time needed for that many people to clear the room) I'm NOT kidding.  Who's next?  Hutt and Curren Price presenting to...Wait, what?  WHY is Curren Price presenting ANYTHING?  Isn't he being prosecuted?  If he goes to jail, this presentation is not gonna age well.  Who are they presenting to?  Tammi Mac, a radio personality.  Nice resume read by Hutt.  The recipient mentions her radio station's call letters at least 3 times...must think she's on the radio.  She's also wearing her radio station's t-shirt !  Stevie Wonder owns her radio station!  I do notice a clock counting down...looks like they were given 15 minutes of Official LA City Council Meeting TIME to speak!  Let's see if this presentation goes beyond that...Heather Hutt speaks for 3 minutes, then Curren Price (being prosecuted) gets a little speech...at least he keeps it short.  Then award, then Tammi Mac speaks for a while...wow, they only used 11 minutes.  They GAVE BACK FOUR minutes...what a concept!  Still, why were they given 15 minutes? 

Who's next?  Padilla and Hugo presenting to a UNION!  I'm serious; the pandering is THAT shameless around here!   A lot of purple shirts in the front of the room.  15 minutes on the clock for the Presentation to the Union!  Will they stick to it?  Doubt it, if you include OTHER council member pandering after.  Let's see.  Padilla is wearing some purple too!  And a gold SEIU lapel pin just like those she's presenting to...WOW.  It's like a Union or Campaign Rally on City Time using City Resources!  Purple earrings on Padilla too!  Really going all out!  Padilla starts by talking about her college internship with SEIU.  Now she's shouting out all the SEIU chapters in the City Hall Family!  So, SEIU 2015 is the one being honored now.  So, apparently it's National Caregivers Day...nice timing, Padilla!  LARGEST Union in SEIU, so you KNOW they're going overtime! 

Speaker Countdown Clock hits ZERO, buzzer sounds, and is the City Attorney Rep gonna give a warning?  Heck No!  This is what I refer to as “Preferential Enforcement”.  This guy just continues talking with not a worry in the world, knowing nobody would dare cut him off.  When he finishes speaking, this presentation has gone like 17 minutes.  It's not over.  Padilla goes back to the mic and brings up HUGO to speak.  He's talking with the clock zeroed out below him.  He does 3 minutes and now we're at TWENTY minutes...but we're STILL going!  Now the OTHER Council Members have to chime in!  Of course, Raman is gonna jump in...she's in a close reelection battle.  She spoke A LOT at this meeting, taking advantage of her position to try to get those votes and that press coverage!  It should be illegal this close to an election. 

So, Raman takes the stage...it's a two minute Love Fest.  KDL is next.  Two Minutes and some Shouting in Spanish.  KDL's up for reelection right about now, too.  Curren Price AGAIN?  Is this meeting the Attempted Redemption of Curren Price?  Takes his minute.  Monica Rodriguez speaks for 3 minutes?  Hernandez takes a bit of time...going bilingual again.  THIRTY-ONE minutes into this presentation, and John Lee steps up to the mic?  John Lee?  THIRTY-THREE minutes and that's a wrap on that presentation.  Who's next?  Official Business! 

At this point, the meeting has been going for ONE HOUR and 11 Minutes, or Seventy One Minutes, and VERY LITTLE business has been attended too.  Also, we, the public, have been waiting to speak on Agenda Items and to make General Public Comment on NON-Agenda Items.  At this point there's a quick vote, which shows Hutt is gone...let's see if she returns.  12 members present.  Then, Eunisses and Hugo vote NO on the pilot RV-to-Home RV Recycling Program in Council District 7.  Sounds about right.  Looks like the Other Members of the “Gang of Four” Progressives, are either absent (Yaroslavsky) or worried about their election (Raman), because they often vote together.  Now, Raman is wasting time talking and patting herself on the back on the next item. 

At this point, the LA City Attorney Rep is brought in to scare and warn (threaten?) public speakers...one minute per agenda item, you must stay on topic, I believe max of 2 items?  For GENERAL Public Comment you have to wait til the VERY END of this Regular Meeting....and you're gonna be waiting a LONG time!  So that you SUFFER and never return! 

So, Krekorian starts calling out names of public speakers and “Michael Schneider” is called, BIG Bike Activist, leading “Streets for All”, which should really be renamed Streets for Bikes.  And there's a lot of other Bike folks here to speak...but why?  They're all speaking on Item 6, which already had a hearing.  This is the item that was ANONYMOUSLY opened up to a hearing at the very beginning and obviously ONE SIDE was tipped off by someone.  Where's the other side?  So I hurriedly sign up to speak and use my time to complain about this shady practice, which SHOULD be taken to Court.  Happens ALL THE TIME at LA City Hall.  They open up an item to be heard at the last minute, agenda indicated otherwise, and ONE SIDE gets bussed in.  It happens SO OFTEN and it's SO unfair.  Only the insiders know about this practice.  And somebody should take the City to Court over the frequency of the use of this tactic.  Then the press is there, and they're in on it, too, and they go: “Look, Angelenos want Road Diets!”  NO, they don't.  Because Road Diets make TRAFFIC much worse.  Don't let them fool you.  This Measure HLA is NOT about Bike Lanes.  It's about Road Diets.  Yes, they're gonna have a debate about the cost with Item 6, and that's important, because the more they spend on these VERY FEW Bike Activists (many of whom don't live in this City), the more animals are going to be killed at LA City Animal “Shelters” for lack of funds.  But the bigger issue to most people is impact on TRAFFIC. 

So, the LA City Firefighters Union came out against this (because people are gonna die due to extra traffic; think heart attacks), and their Rep only gets 60 seconds to speak before his mic is cut off?  Can you believe the disrespect.  How much time did they waste on those presentations?  How many firefighters does he represent?    Now, Hutt is one of the 6 council members supporting Measure HLA (the Gang of Four plus Marqueece too).  This is so inconsistent with her prior actions, I gotta believe that this was pandering for the LA Times endorsement.  The Times made it clear they're not gonna pick her, so she should pull the support for this horrible Measure, especially now that she has an excuse:  the same firefighters that have endorsed her, well they also oppose Measure HLA. 

Where's Mayor Bass? 

It appears she's HIDING behind her CAO (City Administrative Officer) Matt Szabo.  He comes in on Item 6 and he's the bad guy.  But, really, people have to remember that he can't do squat without her blessing and approval.  He works for her at her pleasure.  NO WAY he's gonna try to torpedo Measure HLA without her permission, in my opinion.  IMHO, she's just too much of a chicken to come out and say she opposes it.  But, that's ok.  She's also endorsing Nithya Raman.  Mayor Bass has already bungled Crime and Homelessness.  And the City Budget.  Now she's about to bungle Traffic.  Better not be running for reelection! 

Other Players

Some guy from Move LA comes to speak in favor of Measure HLA.  I had noticed long ago the nexus/overlap between the Heavy Rail folks (LA Metro) and the Bike Riders.  Bike Riders were clever...they help Heavy Rail and the Developers...and then those 2 groups help them back.  Later in the meeting, Krekorian sounds like he's pro-Measure HLA...maybe that's because he sits on the LA Metro Board and those folks want Congestion Pricing.  Congestion Pricing is coming...first a pilot...then the whole enchilada AFTER Bass gets reelected.  But to get people to agree to Congestion Pricing you have to make Traffic worse, which LA Metro is very good at (like cutting Bus Service Hours for years in order to make traffic worse so that voters would vote for Measure R and Measure M, higher sales tax).  Two ways to do that:  Road Diets for Bike Riders, that take away parking and traffic lanes, is the obvious one.  Less obvious one is also being used.  Bus Lanes that take away traffic lanes or rush hour traffic lanes...the new La Brea Bus Lanes, for example.  Or how about a 24 hour Bus Lane in the Valley.  It exists.  That way, LA Metro can PRETEND to be Pro-Bus with the minimum spend possible. 

The Bike Activists also learned to pretend to join pedestrians or bus riders, so that they wouldn't look as selfish as they are.  But, no, none of these initiatives are about pedestrians or bus riders, they're primarily about bike riders making themselves VIP's. 

Outing Jeff Jacobberger and Bob Blumenfield 

How do I know so much about what I refer to as the “Bike Lobby”, which has become a Powerful Special Interest Group.  It kinda started at my local neighborhood council (NC) many years ago.  The City of LA has 90 NC's with volunteers participating in elections and then advising the City.  A lot of NC's were taken over by bad actors (outside interests) including mine.  Mine is Mid City West Community Council.  The bike riders took over after Jeff Jacobberger started leading the NC.  Big bike activist.  One time the other board members had to explain to him that we were fighting to save a  local DASH Bus because most old people can't ride bikes.  Some negative energy between Jeff and others...he ended up leaving with an email that blamed me, among others.  I was so proud.  Anyway, he was a lawyer, he ended up being Legislative Director for Blumenfield!  I was happy for him...he's not fighting with people and he's not causing me problems...until now. 

In my second time at the mic, for General Public Comment at the end of the Regular Meeting, I outed him as a Bike Guy for transparency sake.  His termed-out boss' committee might be handling Item 6 and the CAO's Report.  Blumenfield is the council member that shepherded digital billboards on bus shelters through the City Council.  Pretending like you care about traffic accidents, Bob?  Don't you think your digital billboards at street level are gonna distract drivers and cause accidents? 

There's other causes of deadly accidents.  One is that the State Legislature tried years ago to force the bike riders to wear helmets and they blocked the legislation.  Biking without a helmet is suicidal.  They're also counting pedestrian accidents, but Newsom decriminalized most jaywalking...so don't you think that's a cause of pedestrian deaths?  Aren't they also counting accidents from drunk driving.  So many of these deaths (the number is low to begin with) would NOT be prevented by Measure HLA...the Bike Lobby is just being clever again, trying to trick you to make you think otherwise.  They're just ANTI-car.  But, soon, they'll win.  Measure HLA will pass, Traffic will get much worse, Congestion Pricing will kick in, you'll have to pay tolls to use the roads, and you won't be able to afford to drive.  But that's ok...you can always use the lousy bus service and dangerous rail service from LA Metro.  And the Government will clean up.  Let's not forget Laura Friedman (running for Congress and endorsed by the LA Times) and her Speed Cameras.  They're coming to LA too.  More money raised, more pricey tickets for you.  All ANTI-car stuff.  ANOTHER one:  Newsom's new “daylighting” law...cars lose parking spaces that are next to crosswalks, in the name of safety, even though he decriminalized most jaywalking.

(“The Angry Angeleno” is the nom de plume of Yuval Kremer.  Yuval is a Registered Democrat; a Cali-Camp, Harvard-Westlake (pre-merger), USC, and Loyola Law School Alum; and a former ballot candidate for Mayor of LA (failing to prevent Mayor Garcetti's reelection) and LA County Supervisor (ran against Sheila Kuehl, Katy Yaroslavsky's former boss).  The opinions expressed by Yuval are his and his alone (not those of CityWatchLA), but will likely be yours soon!)