THE CITY-Judicial Blowback: Federal Judge Carter made a decent point about monitoring the county and the city's activities intended to improve the homelessness situation, but the wind has been blowing against him.
Carter wants the City to provide a detailed breakdown of funding sources, uses, objectives, methods and means so that the court can monitor the historic Binding Commitment and Implementation Plan (the "Plan").
He wants hard numbers with answers about racial disparities in housing and homelessness.
The Board of Supervisors have a lawyer named Skip Miller, who in the interest of judicial economy wants the Supervisors to be left alone to continue the excellent work he feels they are doing, without sharing his legal invoices. The gist of his argument is that the board is fantastic. . .and the fact that people are falling deeper and deeper into an untenable situation, is par for the course.
Judge Carter may have shanked it off the tee when he articulated that he wants to oversee the instruments or at least have access to good information about the embarrassing crisis. Sound familiar?
The preamble to the Ralph M. Brown Act says, "The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. . . The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know."
Overseeing the agencies is very much the people's job.
For one, we install the Ramans and Lees (they don't agree on eviction details) and provide for an open government plan to sort it all out. The public and the vibrant press have access and bring sunshine to a situation which, not only will dry up with all the rain. . .it could also cut back on some of the unwanted corruption.
But there is plenty of wiggle room for the agencies who are bureaucratic and clever at introducing silly rules and sneaky tricks to minimize actual public access and so accountability.
They diligently move around various city initiatives in myriad city council files. Each council file is attached to a plan and many to are attached to an invisible but sometimes findable "suitcases full of money." This means the recipient or helper or a lobbyist who thunk it up will get in on the action. ("Your honor, Mr. Preven is making vague references to influences that--" The Court: "Let him finish.")
The briefcases are not always easy to spot, but usually they are available for inspection at the Ethics Commission.
Controller Galperin's recent audit would be chilling if it weren’t so vague. Galperin said the record complaint level in 2019 was a result of city employees receiving enhanced training about what constitutes malfeasance. I immediately thought, "Oh, they don't need training on that." The Saga of Randy Fraud for instance will be coming to theatres near you, soon.
Of the 460 calls to Galperin's Fraud Hotline last year, 161 were deemed “actionable.” That's a solid 35%!
Under the category of fraud benchmarking: during the 2019 City Council race the city clerk deemed 31% (200 of 635) of the challenger to councilmember A's valid petition signatures, invalid. Judge Beckloff wasn't feeling well--
"That's a different kind of fraud. . . Sir, you're disrupting the meeting."
Judge Cruz Reynoso RIP
Although he has been described as “a Latino Thurgood Marshall,” Cruz Reynoso is most often remembered for his kindness and his common touch. He was a judge who supported the death penalty, because he felt it was the law and ultimately got flushed out of the California Supreme Court on the coattails of Rose Bird.
I learned in the Times obituary that during the time when the court was led by Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird and Reynoso was accused by critics of sidestepping the ultimate punishment. “I will follow the law,” Reynoso said to then Governor Deukmajian. “And if your question is, ‘Will I try to avoid the death penalty?’ the answer is absolutely not.”
“He could have said, ‘I’m different from Rose Bird. Look at my opinions,’ and try to prevail by distancing himself,” said Kevin Johnson, dean of the UC Davis School of Law. “He refused to get involved with the political process. Some people said he made a mistake," Johnson told the Times.
Judge Patricia D. Nieto had no trouble getting involved in the political process on Cinco de Mayo.
Despite the flapping appellate court decision and the clear contempt of it by the City, she simply could not find a way to suppress the diligent best efforts of the City Attorney Scott Marcus who showed up to nix any discussion of the merits of the allegations that the City had been violating the very same section of the Brown Act that I had previously I doxxed them over.
Given the multiple irregularities in the code section numbering and the failure to issue a writ, there may be challenges to getting the Court to deliver enforcement.
Paul Krekorian: Excellent!
Anything that enables a Los Angeles County judge to not enforce against the City, is obviously fraught with risk.
Judge Nieto emerged as a youngster as a Villaraigosa appointee. She cut her eye-teeth working for a young state Senator named Gilbert Cedillo.
Cinco De Mayo: LA Superior Court Edition -- Dept. 24 (no rainbow)
BS166039 -- Eric Preven VS City of Los Angeles ET AL Hearing on Ex Parte application for an order shortening time on the declaration of Eric Preven to initiate contempt proceedings (notes and recollections. . .)
Judge Nieto: I don't want to get into the merits.
Eric Preven: Well, that is what we're talking about.
Judge Nieto: Because this case. I do not have jurisdiction at this time. First of all, the case has previously been dismissed. If you do want to pursue this, you can file a new case, go in through the Writ department to get some kind of emergency order If that could occur. . .
Eric Preven: Which department?
Judge Nieto: Well first of all you have to file a case.
Eric Preven: I filed a cease and desist your honor. I know how to file a Brown Act case.
Judge Nieto: Listen, I KNOW THE BROWN ACT.
Eric Preven: Oh, do you. Great!
Judge Nieto: Mr. Marcus knows the Brown Act.
Eric Preven: Well, Great!
Judge Nieto: But we're in a court of law where your case was dismissed. The Court does not have jurisdiction, number one. Number two, Contempt proceedings are very specific. . . there is nothing here at this point in front of me that I. . .
First of all, he's correct, there's no memo of points and authorities. No order filed that you can initiate a contempt proceeding. But there's no case within which you can do that. Because you received something when this case was dismissed from the City Attorney.
You can certainly file a new case.
Eric Preven: Your honor. . .
Judge Nieto: Mr. Preven.
Eric Preven: This is time sensitive. The reason why I came in here is because the budget hearing is starting in about five minutes. It probably already did.
Now, you do not seem to understand that there are four and a half million residents here in this city. By blocking public comments on the nine billion up to 25 billion when you consider the other funding the city's responsible for, we are in a very serious area.
I am not here on a lark or on some kind of mission to hear myself speak. The people benefit from hearing from other members of the public.
Judge Nieto: Of course, that is what the Brown Act is.
Eric Preven: The people benefit from hearing other people talk about what the city is doing. By denying comment but offering sixty seconds to address the whole thing, including the LAPD scandal, including the funding problems for the homeless. . . including what Judge Carter has been talking about, which is that there is a lack of accountability -- at the Federal Court level. It is critical that public comment be heard and honored.
I do not like coming to court. I came here because this was the fastest way to get the court that "missed it" twice to rectify. I want to emphasize that your honor, because it wasn't you, so it's not personal.
Judge Nieto: I don't take things personally.
Eric Preven: Well, we all do, except for me. But the Superior court -- this very court, twice, took the position that "Mr. Preven is an idiot, get him out of here." So we took it all the way to the appellate court and the appellate court made a finding that the city -- ON THIS VERY RULE -- had been engaged in a pattern of Brown Act violations.
Judge Nieto: Mr. Preven.
Eric Preven: You want a memorandum of points and authority -- let me finish. . .The point and authority is 54954.3. That is the Brown Act section. The appeals court was very specific, did you read it? That is the point and authority and I did cite it. And you have that. It's in this file. And it has the wrong number affixed because Mr. Marcus, who attempted to trivialize this fact in writing. . . But one of his deputies signed a Judgement that cited the wrong government code -- 54950.3 -- that does not exist. It's invalid. That's not the law that we sued over.
So again, we have a grievous misunderstanding here. And a typo on the return from court of appeals? And you won't fix it.
The idea that this courtroom is going to say, "It's closed. We're done. Get out. The city doesn't have to follow the law anymore."
That's fine if you want to take that position, but I am going to go into the next courtroom and I am going to challenge this. I am very upset.
Because you know in your heart that the City is subverting the Brown Act and they know that it is very hard for a member of the public to place a lawsuit in such a timeframe -- so now, in four months’ time, Mr. Preven's Brown Act case about the Budget hearing will be heard. Great.
Let me be very clear. Let me be very clear. The law is clear. The city's conduct is wrong. And they didn't even print out their document. I would like a copy of his opposition.
Judge Nieto: Do you have a copy?
Scott Marcus: I do not, your honor.
On the Desk of George Gascon and Rob Bonta, Friday May 7, 2021
For broad context, this is a conflict between the petitioner (Eric Preven) and the respondent (City) over a perceived race to the end of the month on the Mayor's 2021-2022 Budget, per the charter. The disagreement is related to the type and manner of public meetings the city has conducted including a serious deviation from prior practice and compliance with the Brown Act.
Since April 28, there have been several violations of 54954.3 with impunity. The City apparently has no intention of complying with 54954.3. There may be time for the City to do the right thing. . .
Prayer: The city must agree to appropriately cure and correct the special meetings between April 27 and May 6 that they held erroneously without taking public comments. At least five Special meetings would replace the Special meetings held on April 28, 29, 30, and May 3 and 5 of varying lengths at which comments were denied on the one (1) item.
The departments that presented on those days must at least be present and provide a short update to the public w/ summary of their activities. Then, the city must take public comment. Next department. And so on.
The notice must be in compliance with the special meeting rule (24-hour notice) but should also be placed on the City Calendar at the time of concurrence, and an eblast should be sent out to via ENS notifications.
Providing such five replacement dates for testimony would comply with the Governor's order charging reasonable discretion to provide maximum transparency and access.
The beaches in LA county are so beautiful, you really want everybody in LA county to have a chance to enjoy them come park along the side of the road and go for a walk. Take advantage of the beautiful environs along the Pacific Ocean where the Chumash once roamed.
But you have to get started early as the parking fills up quickly.
Although it is more fun to lecture local governments about their rights and responsibilities here in the overlapping jurisdictions of Los Angeles, occasionally a message must be delivered directly to the people (via the Sheriff).
As we head into the summer, it's time to reflect on how we behave along the beach with our fellow community members and visitors.
Though living along the coast is a magical gift, it does not entitle those people who are lucky enough to live there, to special beach privileges. The beaches in California are public and if you happen to live on the right of way, everything below the mean high tide line on the beach is public Ask Steve Lopez!
But the tides change daily, and nobody frankly knows exactly where it is, so ordinarily -- over the last 35 years that I've been visiting Malibu (Disclosure: a member of my family is a longtime resident) -- we just wing it.
Poor beach etiquette is a little bit like obscenity, you'll know it when you see it.
So, obviously hanging out under a person's house cannot be construed as appropriate and in my experience that almost never happens. What about in front of a person's house?
Well, visitors and the residents have to be respectful of one another.
What is not okay and emerged as a thing during the pandemic last year, is residents putting orange road cones out on the beach to send a strong signal to Angelenos who might like to dip their toes in the Malibu shore, to keep moving.
The cones are inappropriate.
If one wants to sit or stand on the beach or place a towel or a chair that might do the trick.
Imagine if someone tried to put a cone on a public roadway? In an area where it is crowded and difficult to find a spot, say Koreatown or Malibu Road.
Imagine if a resident blocked off a space or two with cones. That would, I submit (your honor! I can't stop) be outrageous!
Preferential parking districts: this will be probed more deeply in another column to get at the same issue -- the interface between the public and the public right of way.
Suffice it to say, the outrageous example cited above has happened on Malibu road. Many buildings contain several apartments, so there are more cars than driveway spaces.
It is never appropriate to cone off a public parking space for private usage, but evidently not everybody agrees. That's why I flagged down an LA County white-shirt, citation sheriff and said, and I’m paraphrasing, "Do something!"
I urged him to take a break from writing a dizzying number of other parking tickets to ticket the damned cone.
He shrugged and suggested that maybe I could call the City of Malibu or deliver a public comment.
The Pain falls mainly on the Shame in Spain.
One fun idea to get the neighbors to be more neighborly was touted a few years ago in the New York Times.
The scene was Brunete, Spain, where there had been a battle to get dog owners to clean up after their pets, so this could apply to Malibu Road as well.
The mayor of the town decided to send the dog poop back to dog owners who violated the rule. “It’s your dog, it’s your dog poop. We are just returning it to you.”
They engaged a small army of volunteers to bag it, box it and send it back to its owners.
If the ticket writers on Malibu Road see an orange cone or any other colored cone holding a space for someone who feels it's theirs to hold, they should roll up a ticket and stick it in the cone!
It's called civic shaming.
"I don't know if that is a crime or not, but the statute of limitations must have lapsed."
The Lanterman-Petris-Short Prior to 1967, California’s mental health system looked very different than it does now. Many more individuals with mental health disabilities lived in state hospitals and large facilities, often for long periods of their life. Think "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" or "Skid Row."
Then California passed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (Welfare and Institutions Code Sections 5000 et seq). Named after its authors, State Assemblyman Frank Lanterman and California State Senators Nicholas C. Petris and Alan Short, the LPS Act sought to “end the inappropriate, indefinite, and involuntary commitment of persons with mental health disorders.”
It also established a right to prompt psychiatric evaluation and treatment, in some situations, and set out strict due process protections for mental health clients. People have heard of the LPS: “5150”s, 72-hour holds for evaluation and assessment; and “5250”s, 14-day holds for intensive treatment.
With all the sneaking around at City Hall, I thought it would be interesting to share a glance at the proverbial sausage factory without the public around.
An amazing interview with Art Bolton re: the midnight passage of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act in which he tells how the deal happened at the last minute, without analysis or public comment.
"People were disgusted. We wanted to terminate the old commitment system, and make it so if you can't demonstrate they're a danger. . . How? The legislators asked the psychiatrists. . .how long should it take to diagnose that someone is mentally ill? Nobody can predict, is the reality, but they agreed on approximately 72 hours.
The Lanertman-Petris was intended to be the Magna Carta for the commitment system. But ending the commitment of patients doesn't mean you’re solving the problem. And the reality was that it would require money and the counties in California did not want to change the commitment system.
They didn't want private entities potentially getting some of their work. They felt threatened. The Bill passed in the assembly but stalled in the senate and was finally bottled up in committee.
Senator Alan Short also had a bill that the counties want. . . that amended the funding formula. . . from 50/50 to 75/25 and the Short plan was to make it 90% funded by state/10% counties. The counties really needed that bill."
Mr. Bolton was sent by Frank Lanterman: "I walked into Senators Short's office; he was a drinker. . . so he poured me a Scotch. I told him, our bill is bottled up, your bill is important too. We'll take yours and amend into it all the provisions and move it as the Lanterman-Petris and Short act.
It was last night of the session. At midnight ,the legislature was going to adjourn.” Lanterman asked Art Bolton to sit in. "The third guy, a real Nazi named Schmitz, John Birch Society. . .a very conservative guy.”
He said, "I've been looking at this. . . I think the commitment system is terrible, it sounds like a Russian thing, they find someone they don't agree with, maybe a political prisoner and they stick him in a gulag somewhere out in Siberia, label him mentally ill and he's gone. And this looks like the same kind of thing to me. I like it, but I don't like the rest of this garbage with these regional programs and alternatives. . . That whole thing is going to cost a lot of money. And I don't trust it anyway. But if you eliminate the service provisions of what you're going to do. . . I won't support it if it's got money in it, but I will support the bill if you trim it down, take the money out."
"Well, that broke the deadlock and we walked out of that room. Lanterman says to me, Arthur, do you think you can revise this bill, in time for. . .you know, we're adjourning in a few hours here. I said, ‘Oh, yeah.’ We'll rewrite the whole damn thing, Frank. We'll do it.”
Bolton had his trusted staff with him, the lawyer. . . "and we figure we can cut and slice and fix this bill." But then it comes to our attention that all bills at the time that were sent before the legislative bodies, especially when they are under time pressure, like the last night of the session, must be accompanied by an analysis by the non-partisan group that looks at budget stuff. The Legislative Analysts' office.
Because a typical legislator is not going sit on the floor and read through fifty pages of legal gobbledygook, they want a one-page document that tells them if it is going cost money. . .or not, from an authoritative source. And it's always on a green piece of paper, and it sits on top of every bill.
So Bolton turned to his trust secretary, Connie Gephard, and said, “Connie, find some green paper!”
And he wrote an analysis of the bill, but rather than calling it a "Legislative Analysis," he called it a "Bill Analysis" He wrote a few sentences, real short that said the bill would not cost money.
Staff copied it on to green paper and put one on top of everybody's bill and that's how we passed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. That's how that happened.
Breathtaking, when you consider the impact, but Bolton had the button: "I don't know if that is a crime or not, but the statute of limitations must have lapsed."
(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.