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Top of the Obelisk

LOS ANGELES

THE CITY-For nearly a decade, Heather Holt (photo above) had been in charge of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, which serves as a watchdog over LA’s politicians, lobbyists, and others.

And she helped with the install of a new timer, presumably from TASER, that sounds like 50,000 volts to alert a speaker that their time has expired. Innovative and scary.  Critics who question whether the power dynamic of Heather seeking a raise from her bosses, undermines the agency’s role as a watchdog should find the clip of Herb Wesson lathering up the Ethics director during the budget hearings one year, "Hi, Heather!" It's priceless alongside Paul Krekorian, who has had ethical issues but reminded this year, at the truncated to nothing Budget Hearings, that he's "approved every Ethics Commission budget request he's ever seen."  

The agency’s duties kept growing, and Heather believed the salary for her position should go up. Her total pay rose from nearly $224,000 in 2019 to around $247,000 in 2020.   

Even if Holt managed to keep her salary request from interfering with her duties, “the appearance of influence is a problem,” said Miriam Krinsky, who spoke to the Times and served on the Ethics Commission from 1998 to 2003.   

Krinsky is a widely regarded whitewasher and played a pivotal role in reforming the Sheriff's department under Zev Yaroslavsky. Rather, under his leadership. 

Miriam Krinsky earned $238,000 paid by CEO for Sheriff McDonnell. One critic tried to show her compelling salary next to that of Richard Drooyan, the General Counsel and the other jail consultants, known as the two Joes.  

The county would not disclose those men's salaries until ACLU/Preven brought the county on a ride all the way to the California Supreme Court. Sexism remains a serious thing at LA County, despite the upper tier's success with the installation of a massive gender lens.   

Secret Celebration: Jail Violence edition 

During one memorable episode that Krinsky and Peter Eliasberg of the ACLU of Southern California will not deny, the county counsels were refusing to make transcripts of the Civilian Commission on Jail Violence [CCJV] public.   

A member of the public administered a "Bissman" (a non-legal but fully lawful and appropriate maneuver that will be explained in another column) and the greatest county on earth finally relented and made the CCJV transcripts public.  

Some say that testimony eventually led to the defenestration of Sheriff Baca.  

Baca's attorney during that trial was none other than the fully compromised former President of the Ethics Commission, Nathan Hochman.   

It's a real rogues gallery over at Ethics.  

But at the sleepy November Board of Supervisors' meeting there was an unscheduled event - that appeared nowhere on the agenda or supplemental agenda - it was both an opportunity to congratulate the commissioners and staff and for CCJV colleagues to increase pro bono hours while certifying their participation in this historic commission, for CV enhancement purposes, in advance of an unscheduled reception at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. 

Chairman Yaroslavsky reminded the fifty-some-odd honorees/lawyers that. . ."The report you've put forward is one of the most compelling government documents that I've ever been involved in reading.* And I had nothing to do with writing it.  But I had something to do, as the four, five of us, did, in creating this commission. And I think it's safe to say we got our money's worth.  Most of it, we didn't have to pay for, which is the most wonderful thing of all."  

 *experts say this particular phrasing is frequently associated with non-reading. 

The Ethics Buzzer beater 

Lobbyist wives, like Linda Berghoff and Brianna Knabe, are very generous and civically engaged, but the LA Times refuses to write it up.  

It has come up in testimony, dozens of times. What appears to more important to the local paper of record is the salaries of the apparatchiks, like Heather Holt. Matt Szabo and Barbara Romero fan outs from the Mayor's scandal HQ are both up over $305,000!    

The Times muses about the effectiveness of a group appointed by the very electeds that they are charged with overseeing and may not be the best use of the Times' dwindling resources.   

To be fair, it may have just been an Independence Day dumping of Emily Alpert Reyes' copious notes on Ethics.    

She used to love covering the commission but has since moved over to provide  24/7 Barbara Ferrer coverage at County public health. Something like the Noah Bierman following Kamala Harris' every move for the Times.  

Soumya Karlamangla, the former public health reporter is moving to the California Today Section of the New York Times. Speaking of New York, the Times reported the other day that the number of devoted recreational golfers in the United States has hovered around 25 million, but the cohort is aging, and more than 1,600 American golf courses closed in the 2010's (eyes narrowing). I remember Golf and the New York Times.   

Hard not to recall working as a source for two years on the third part of the Bottomline Nation series by the Times entitled: How Private Equity Found Power and Profit in State Capitols.  

The piece went into the weeds on how Private equity firms have used sophisticated but indirect political maneuvering with state and local entities to smooth the way for growth and revenue. 

The American Golf Corporation with the concessionaire licenses to manage half of the counties 17 lucrative courses had been traded between Goldman Sachs and Wesley Edens in a shady manner and the net result was, "Wall Street having its way with main street."   

As I told the Times, the county was ripped off: “It’s like being told you were getting a big red fire truck and then it turns out you get a little red wagon." 

Expectations matter. But so do contracts. . .  

"June Gloom... Boom"  

Hi, Pamela Liebman (CEO of Corcoran), Sorry to bother you during another record-breaking year, but there is a serious corruption in the East Hampton office (Cervi thinks he has no boss) and Johna Muscente of Marketing has yet to respond to a media inquiry, even if just to say no comment. imho 

We the sense of humor in the Corcoran "Brag ads are tacky. Oh well" spots, but my elderly parents had another idea for Corcoran to advertise. I know you came up in marketing and know a lot about branding: What do you think of this proposal, "June Gloom. . .Boom"  (could be by Corcoran if you like it!)   

How to get a sweet Hampton House in the nicest neighborhood in Amagansett. . .and not pay your rent. . . 

STEPS 

  1. Make good offer on "as is" house.  
  1. Do NOT show up at the property and generate a professional stipulated punch list agreement.  
  1. Instead, send the East Hampton Corcoran Agent Jennifer Hoopes to inspect and serve as your proxy/co-conspirator. She loves it. Client signs contract. 
  1. Client occupies the premises -- in fact, she begs entry a week early to set up -- but after Memorial Day weekend she hates it!  
  1. Client generates a complex detailed punch list despite the "as is" agreement -- floats it toward senior citizen owners causing them to fret. June 2 
  1. By June 25, five days prior to July 1, despite good faith efforts by the $enior$, client ASSERTS that the place has been 'uninhabitable' or 'unusable' + introduces an escalated lengthier PUNCH LIST and copies an unscrupulous attorney on a letter to Corcoran agent Jennifer Hoopes.  
  1. Include FALSE written statement re mold. 
  1. Enjoy the 4th of July weekend while withholding your rent that was due on July 1 and have the attorney demand huge rent credit as she recants the written claim re mold,  and watch as seniors pay up to get out of harm's way. 

The message from Corcoran's General Counsel 

These points should be addressed directly to the tenant's attorney, whom I've copied here: 

Andrew R. Levinson 

General Counsel, Senior Vice President 

Transparency is the best disinfectant... "June Gloom. . .Boom"  

Bring your own low rent attorney to our high rent market, and anything goes!   

Neighborhood Watch 

Whereas Angelenos are very interested to see what the Times writers do on their next beats, well – mostly we're wondering why both the city and county are not getting their fair share of  'accountability journalism' from the Los Angeles Times. 

Accountability, some would argue, starts at the tippy top of the obelisk at City Hall, where the Ethics Commission hides in offices with spectacular views. But for oversight to be meaningful, the office must remain open during lunch, and the commission must be held to a very high legal standard and complete audits timely, but the ethical rubber meets the road in the local streets and alcoves of our communities and neighborhoods. 

Imagine if there were a boots-on-the-ground pack of locals in a neighborhood or set of neighborhoods -- including both the charming landowners up on the hills and ridges and the mean-spirited, self-involved Harvard-Westlake suck-ups from the neighborhood associations, were capable of holding their big city leaders meaningfully accountable?  

Local Government Affairs 

Imagine if there were a committee of like-minded residents and stakeholders who managed to agendize issues that their electeds and their proxies were trying to sneak along with lite to extra lite scrutiny. 

That would be an excellent use of City and County resources. If there were a little fund that could get legal opinions on the laws that are regularly bent to the point of being broken, it would be so cool. 

In a way, that is what we built, minus the legal funding, during a whirlwind period. . . 

Our mantra was: What do Studio City Stakeholders think?    

Together we were able to do an enormous amount of good stuff including hosting a dozen or more community forums,  bringing Jonathan Sherin, the County Mental Health Director to talk about one of our most pressing and divisive issues. We also brought diverse factions of our community together to advocate for and vote for a public toilet at the Universal metro station.  

We repeatedly raised serious concerns about misuse of power and accountability at city hall and even persuaded our board to write to the City Attorney of Los Angeles  and US attorney regarding the LADWP payment processing scandal.  

And we went into the weeds on city hall's absurd campaign finance system and pushing for access and reform. The Chart and Finance Chart 01 25 19  sequence were offshoots of our work which will have serious lasting impacts on projects in our neighborhoods. 

Together we challenged the County of Los Angeles on no bid contracts, on a $10 million-dollar countywide day off to honor a passing politician, and a variety of other good governance issues. We also provided a lot of links on our agendas to active and ongoing city and county business that stimulated agenda checking, which is a best practice for engaged residents, especially as local media coverage declines. 

And finally, we brought light to projects and plans in Studio City that will certainly help us shape the future of our community. By committing to outreach and information and engagement we occasionally caused those who prefer back channel, need-to-know whisper campaigns to bristle.  

By using public shaming,  through the media and our agendas, rather than the courts that are clogged and mismanaged, and even if you do get through, there's a good chance that Beckloff will be under the weather and side with the government.  

Like, we were all over this:  

Morphing into Encino 

Date: February 13, 2020 at 1:07:37 PM PST

To: [email protected]

Subject: Fwd: Hypothetical Aerial images re: Ventura Boulevard / Whitsett Avenue / Street Vacation 

This was sent to the board, so I assume you've seen it.  

The story is. . .since we noticed, a couple vacations of city property on VB 700 feet west of whitsett have been blasted through by Avak.   

I am that surprised you and Lisa Sarkin as members of the VB Cahuenga Specific Corridor are not up to speed. Or are you? 

The question:  How can we the city of LA give away property without knowing to whom precisely we are giving it and what it is they are going to do with it, near a vital connector and popular choke point? 

City Planning was unable to answer. City Public Works Engineering eventually provided a series of linked parcels from the GIS department. It was like a tooth extraction. What is going on?  

The impacts on traffic -- of whatever is going on -- including a new Sportsmen's Mall (your former bff Weintraub) and possible privatization of Weddington (Dymonds project) must be fully considered. And we need a reconvening of the LVNOC on the horrifying Prop K - Studio City Rec Center expansion being masked as the first ever platinum leeds. . .ribbon cutter for Mayor Garcetti. A high school regulation basketball court?  

Minimum requirementalism is way out of fashion. . .what do you think is going on?

 

(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch.) 

   

 

 

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