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Thu, Jun

Memo to Mike Feuer: If You Want to Be Mayor, How About Settling the Skid Row NC Formation Committees Lawsuit?

LOS ANGELES

EASTSIDER-If you really think about it, the Skid Row Neighborhood Council Formation Committee’s election in 2017 is actually a story about massive election fraud in Los Angeles.

It just happened in a Subdivision Election for Neighborhood Councils, instead of a regular election for our elected officials.  I don’t know why this is OK for the Neighborhood Council system, when it is patently illegal for regular City Elections. 

My thought is that if Mike Feuer wants to have any legitimacy at all in the race for Mayor in 2022, he should fix the fix on Skid Row’s election, which is still tied up in a hostile court fight.  

It doesn’t cost much in terms of money if he simply decides to find in favor of certifying the Skid Row NC Formation Committee as a Neighborhood Council. It’s a remedy for all the City-sponsored election illegalities, and there is little practical impact on the City of Los Angeles as a whole. 

If he can’t do that, then take note of what that tells us a Feuer administration would look like. Seriously. 

If you want to know how rotten this whole deal was, just read on. 

The Background 

Since few Angelenos ever paid any attention to this slimy fix, here’s some background I wrote back in 2017 about the real stakes at play in the election: 

“Most of us who were around when the Neighborhood Councils were first formed knew how DLANC (the Downtown NC) was set up was to “manage” Skid Row. As early as 2014, the Skid Row NC Formation Committee was created to try and get out of the DLANC, as downtown real estate values soared and the plight of the homeless tanked. 

In January 2017, DONE (Department of Neighborhood Empowerment) sent the formation committee the approval and a notice calling for an election, with the unprecedented language that their election “may also include online voting.” We already knew the establishment of DLANC and HCNC (Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council) were well funded to take them out when their front group, United Downtown, or Unite DTLA, was represented by former City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo’s law firm.” 

For those who don’t remember Rocky Delgadillo, he was the LA City Attorney from 2001 to 2009, when he was finally termed out. I think he was about the last genuine lawyer in that role. 

These days, Rocky is a Superlawyer for DLA Piper, the giant developer law firm. I mention this since their reach is huge

“DLA Piper is a global law firm with lawyers located in more than 40 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific, positioning us to help clients with their legal needs around the world. 

We strive to be the leading global business law firm by delivering quality and value to our clients.

We achieve this through practical and innovative legal solutions that help our clients succeed. We deliver consistent services across our platform of practices and sectors in all matters we undertake. 

Our clients range from multinational, Global 1000, and Fortune 500 enterprises to emerging companies developing industry-leading technologies. They include more than half of the Fortune 250 and nearly half of the FTSE 350 or their subsidiaries. We also advise governments and public sector bodies.” 

I mention all of this to help folks understand the implications of the fact that ex-City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, back in 2017, represented the anti-Skid Row front group, United Downtown aka Unite DTLA, as: 

“He sent a 10-page letter to BONC (as well as to Garcetti, Feuer, Huizar, Grayce Liu and DONE’s City Attorney, Darrren Matrinez.) You can find a link to his letter in an article here.   

When all of this didn’t work, Jose Huizar himself slammed through online voting just for this election, with about two weeks to go before the vote. You have to wonder how many homeless voters had access to any of this tech – as opposed to their opponents with their iPhones, social media chops, and political clout.  

Unsurprisingly, the Skid Row Formation Committee lost its bid in an amazingly close election, considering the forces lined up against them. The final tally included over 1600 votes cast, with Skid Row losing by a mere 62 votes.” 

Talk about unprecedented. 

The same article also detailed the subterranean doings of Grayce Liu on behalf of Eric Garcetti, in her role as General Manager of DONE. First, amazingly, the Grievance Panel appeal filed by the Skid Row folks actually got a fair hearing: 

“In a shocking display that democracy can actually work, the Grievance Panel found in favor of all three of the grievances:  

(103) opponents used City logos, including the LA City logo, EmpowerLA logo, NC logos, and other City department logos, in their campaign materials against the proposed Skid Row NC; 

(104) that the DLANC Neighborhood Council Board endorsed the opponents of the proposed Skid Row NC; and  

(105) electioneering, in the form of the Unite DTLA “Vote No” campaign.  

Score one for the Grievance Panel, democracy, and the NC Charter. But wait, there’s more!  

However, then came flipping the Grievance Panel (remember, this was before Raquel Beltran), with no explanation: 

“On May 19, 2017, Grayce Liu (General Manager of DONE), sent a letter to General Jeff Page of the Skid Row NC-FC, with the following bottom line:  

After careful review of the Election Challenge Panel’s recommendations and with much appreciation for the time and thoughtfulness the panel put into their consideration of the challenges, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (Department) will not accept the Election Challenge Panel’s recommendations and will certify the April 6, 2017 election results as final.”  

Here Come the Judge 

The rest of the story is predictable and not too pretty, although it didn’t take a law degree to understand exactly how slimy the facts were back in 2018: 

“I am looking at a copy of the 3rdAmended Petition for Writ of Mandate, Administrative Mandate and Declaratory Relief, provided to me by the Skid Row NC Formation Committee. Don’t be intimidated by the huge file size. The real meat is contained in the first 48 pages and is well worth the read.  

Personally, I find it all a fascinating read, and I guess indicative of the fact that if you want DONE and Jose Huizar to behave honestly and follow their own rules, you have to sue them. Sad indeed, but no surprise to all too many of us.  

The substance of the suit is that the City colluded with DONE and the Downtown Neighborhood Council (the business umbrella NC for downtown), as well as its lobbyists, to rig the Skid Row election and guarantee failure. Why? How about “clearing the streets for more profitable development and the 2028 Olympic Games.” 

As further evidence, the lawsuit asserts that a core reason for the City’s abysmal failure to actually do anything with the $1.2 billion homeless Bond measure HHH, was so the cops could go in and “unconstitutionally criminalize and force institutionalize the Los Angeles homeless population.”WOW! This is big cheese. Think Chinatown, with its layers of corruption, deceit, and evil intent. Where is Jack Nicholson when we need him? ” 

I won’t go in to all the details of the Superior Court Judge’s failure to support the Skid Row folks.  Suffice it to say that he had about the same interest in a Neighborhood Council issue that he would display over a parking ticket appeal. 

Recently, however, the Formation Committee has filed an appeal with the CA Court of Appeals, which you can read about here

It has the effect of keeping the fight alive, and honestly, with all the City Councils recent punitive actions against the homeless, we need to have a NC standing strong for them. No one but the Skid Row Formation Committee has forcibly made the point that there are some homeless who are perfectly willing to live their lifestyle in Skid Row, and why should they be swept out for the developers? 

Why We Could Never Rerun the Skid Row NC Election 

Back when Jose Huizar hit on the novel idea of selling off Neighborhood Council Jurisdictions, he did a deal to undermine the Neighborhood Council Plan and create the Hermon NC, a sliver of around 3500 (that’s right, less than 4000 souls) -- when the Plan required at least 20,000 to establish a Neighborhood Council. 

Do we know why? No, and we never will. Personally, I think it fit in with his crooked schemes to manipulate land use sales to developers using his PLUM Committee. Anyway you look at it, the deal was nuts, and he never envisioned that Skid Row would use his Subdivision Ordinance tool to get out from Downtown LA. 

The subject of DONE’s NC Subdivision Ordinance is worth a column in and of itself (soon).  For now, you can find the history here

“Unfortunately, the Skid Row election was not a “regular” election. This was a fix from start to finish, from the “boundary adjustment” and ending in the destruction of online ballots after rigging the entire Neighborhood Council system. Thank you, Jose Huizar. 

It started with the Council rewriting rules to eliminate the 20,000-stakeholder requirement in the NC Plan, and allowing any group to juggle boundaries and have their own toy carved out from an existing Neighborhood Council. 

To get around this impediment, Huizar created Council File 12-1681 in 2012. 

Then, he cunningly sat on it until 2015, when the Motion zipped through the system, with Huizar casting the deciding vote. Thereafter, in 2017 a Hermon Neighborhood Council was carved out from the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council, containing a giant 3500 stakeholders (of whom almost 350 actually voted).  

For those interested, you can track all this in a June 2017 article I wrote here. “ 

What makes this issue worth a separate article is the fact that, having screwed Skid Row out of a fair election, the City in 2019 the actually eliminated the slimy Subdivision Rules, and totally replaced the 2016 Huizar Ordinance with a new Ordinance. 

Most people will never notice any of this, but if you look at the very end of page 30 of the Chapter 28 DONE laws, it says in very small print: 

Added by Ord. No. 184.526, Eff. 11-9-16

Amended by: In Entirety, Ord. No 186.310, Eff. 10-21-19” 

What this sophistry means in English is that the 2016 Ordinance covering the Skid Row election has been eliminated, all traces deleted, so that you cannot compare the 2016 Ordinance with the Current Ordinance on boundary adjustments. 

The Takeaway 

OK, OK, you want to know what all this has to do with City Attorney Mike Feuer and his upcoming run for Mayor of the City of Los Angeles. Fear not, here is what I wrote in my original article regarding the City Attorney: 

“Also, it is clear that Grayce Liu couldn’t have written this gobbledygook letter on the best day she ever lived. I’m betting this was a ghost write by Deputy City Attorney Darren Martinez, doing his lord and master Mike Feuer’s bidding. And the City Attorney has a screaming out loud conflict of interest! Its primary client is the Mayor and the City Council, not some gonzo Neighborhood Council System and DONE, which they don’t even like anyway and routinely just tell them what to do, instead of giving actual legal advice. Same for BONC. Sheesh! ” 

The fact that all traces of the 2016 Subdivision Ordinance have been scrubbed would argue that this shining example of Jose Huizar’s crooked schemes to help downtown developers was dangerous enough that it had to be eliminated. This also means that the Skid Row NC could never have another election because the fundamental basis of the election has been destroyed. . .by Mike Feuer’s City Attorney Office. 

So back to my main point. If Mike Feuer can’t settle the lawsuit by simply declaring the Skid Row Neighborhood Council Formation Committee victorious in their quest for their own Neighborhood Council, he doesn’t believe in Neighborhood Councils as laid out in the City Charter. It would also imply that he cares a lot about kissing the ass of the big developers that currently own LA City lock, stock, and barrel.  

That would tell us what a Feuer administration would look like. Seriously. 

(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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