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Here’s What You Missed Last Week at LA City Council

A recap of Los Angeles City Council meetings on February 14 and 22.

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Art by Sandra Markarian for Knock LA

LA City Council Meeting 2/15/22

This meeting had two interesting moments from public comment that were not on the agenda. First, Rob Quan from Unrig LA said that CD 9 Councilmember Curren Price is not following the proper procedure for recusing himself on Item 21, which regarded an amendment to an expenditure plan for permanent supportive housing. Price has not given his reasons for his recusal, only saying it is because of his wife. It is good that Price is recusing himself when he has a conflict of interest, but he should be following rules for the sake of transparency. Second, several callers from CHIRLA asked for the motion about creating a Justice Fund — which would help provide lawyers for people facing immigration court — be brought before the Budget and Finance Committee.

Among the items on the agenda, Items 23 and 24 received the most public comment. These items changed several current regulations regarding taxi cabs, notably switching to open market permits. A couple of callers spoke against this, saying such changes would flood the market with so many taxis that no one would be able to make a living. When you look at what is happening with Uber and Lyft, it is clear that the “rideshare” industry is changing rapidly. In combination with an increased interest in public transportation, we are poised for a period of massive change around transportation. City Council, unswayed by public comment, passed both items. 

Items 14 and 15 accepted grants for a couple of different programs. Item 14 was for a 2020 Homeland Security program, which started in September 2020 and will continue until February 2023. The grant isn’t for all that much money considering the time period ($525,644), but suspicion is warranted whenever Homeland Security is brought up. Item 15 was a grant to promote emergency preparedness. In theory, that is less worrisome. But considering that, one, it also involves Homeland Security and, two, the government has an abysmal track record on disaster response, one must wonder whether this money would be better spent somewhere else.

Item 32 provided funds for the “Master Plan and Schematic Design documents for the entire Hollywood Walk of Fame.” This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s important to know where your money goes. The fact that about $10 million is being spent on developing a plan and doing environmental reviews is important. The plan would move toward making the Hollywood Walk of Fame more pedestrian-friendly and less car-focused, although some critics say the plan doesn’t go far enough and doesn’t include protections for working people.

There was one tentatively positive item on the agenda. Item 29 waived the rental fees for this year’s Glamour Gowns Suit Up, an event that “provides high school–aged girls in foster care with dresses and accessories for a special event.” It’s a sweet gesture for those dealing with the loss of a loved one, either through death or separation, although it does feel a bit like one of those news stories that is framed as heartwarming but — if you think about it — really exposes problems in our society. That being said, it’s at least a nice thing to do.

LA City Council Meeting 2/16/22

This was my first time watching the City Council members onscreen while also listening to them, and it was depressing! As many callers have pointed out, councilmembers often ignore speakers during public comment time. They chat with people offscreen, giggle at their phones, and all around zone out. This week it looked like CD 4 Councilmember Nithya Raman was the only one listening and actually looking at the screen, without her eyes shifting around like she was reading. Councilmembers rolled in late and left early. One caller scolded CD 14 Councilmember Kevin de Léon for his behavior, saying the councilmember has been evasive of his constituents’ attempts at contact and communication. I think CD 13 Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell had an actual meeting scheduled during this council meeting, because he spent just about the whole time in active conversation with someone offscreen (or perhaps on a different screen).

Despite the low energy, there were some important items on the agenda, including continued enforcement of 41.18 (i.e., the plan to end homelessness by simply making it illegal). The enforcement zone of the day was in Councilmember Gil Cedillo’s District 1, but strangely he asked to remove it from the agenda entirely. One caller theorized that perhaps Cedillo wanted to be able to say he’d introduced the item but also say he’d stopped it, so he could play it both ways and get as much public support as possible. Another caller expressed opposition to 41.18, recalling that Adolf Hitler promoted the dehumanization of unhoused people as “asocial,” which opened the door to all kinds of atrocities. The city clerk who fields the calls didn’t catch the connection, and tried to move the conversation along. While I imagine the clerk has heard Holocaust analogies on every kind of issue, I do happen to think this is a meaningful analogy. Jews, seen as undesirable elements of Nazi society, wore pink triangles in concentration camps; unhoused people wore black ones. With Cedillo’s change of mind, sections of CD 1 may be safe from sweeps, for now.

Meanwhile, CD 10 has not had a representative in City Council since October, when Mark Ridley-Thomas was suspended following an indictment on federal corruption charges. CD 10 has a “caretaker,” but she cannot vote. Several residents called in to say they’d like former Councilmember Herb Wesson reappointed. They said their district doesn’t currently have a seat at the table while they face issues like lots of noisy construction, and they either support Wesson wholeheartedly or want him in office at least until there’s an election. That item will be on the agenda for February 22.

Last summer, LAPD collected and exploded an enormous amount of fireworks in South LA. The blast destroyed dozens of residents’ cars and property. It injured, displaced, and perhaps killed people. The residents have been frustrated with the slowness of a response from the city, and councilmembers today voted to financially support relief for the explosion’s victims. Some of that money will go through a community center called All People’s LA, and some will go through “Omni 88 Olive St LP,” which is a luxury hotel group. Some constituents said this company was involved with former Councilmember Jose Huizar’s notoriously corrupt dealings.

The meeting ended with CD 5 Councilmember Paul Koretz and CD 2 Councilmember Paul Krekorian speaking passionately about reducing single-use plastic waste, and the council agreed to plan to do that.