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Will Perry Sellout to SuperGraphics?

March 8, 2010

Los Angeles political heavyweight Councilperson Jan Perry poses the greatest impediment to City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s task force to eradicate illegal billboards, according to the City Hall Insider.

Perry alone was responsible for stalling Trutanich’s proposed action against AEG for attempting to install illegal billboards at their cinema complex last year. In that case, Perry weighed in on behalf of AEG and apparently confronted Trutanich at a private meeting. The meeting appears not to have gone well as Perry’s immediate response was to run around to the media squealing like a stuck pig, accusing Trutanich of ‘threatening’ to throw her in jail.

Perry’s response was to force the issue in City Council, where she passed a motion to grant AEG the billboards that the City’s billboard ban otherwise declared illegal. Perry’s motive for being AEG’s savior are described by many in City Hall as either “payoff or payback.” The implication being that Perry did AEG a favor as a payback for their past financial support in her electoral campaigns, or that AEG promised Perry future payoffs for her campaign to become Mayor of Los Angeles in 2013. Either way you look at it, it stinks.

There’s no question that AEG could make significant donations to Perry’s Mayoral campaign, even with Los Angeles’ restrictive campaign finance limits. However, in a Citywide election it is unlikely that Perry will be able to rely on AEG alone for sufficient financial support.

It is perhaps, the fear that Perry might start becoming the savior of other corporations eager to add advertising revenue to their properties, that must have the City Hall Insider speculating on Perry being amenable to supporting other illegal billboard interests in the City in return for campaign contributions.

City Council President Eric Garcetti was the first to support Trutanich for his non-nonsense speedy solution to “Dragongate,” the first criminal prosecution of illegal signage since the citywide ban was introduced last year. And while others on the Council were quick to show their support, there was a deafening silence from Perry. Perhaps that’s her way of signaling that she’s interested in hearing from illegal signage companies in need of a savior?


SuperGraphics Scofflaw in Slammer

February 28, 2010

Shocking news – According to the Los Angeles Times, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich filed a criminal case against the alleged owner of 6777 Hollywood Boulevard for allowing a gigantic vinyl graphic advertisement to placed on the historic building at the north east corner of Hollywood and Highland. The advertisement is for the Dreamworks SKG movie “How to train your Dragon,”  and was doubtless placed on the building in time for the upcoming Oscars Awards

The Times reported that 49 year-old “businessman,” Kayvan Setareh, was arrested at his Pacific Palisades mansion on Friday night. A woman who answered a phone listing for Setareh declined to discuss the case but said the arrest had been “a shock to the whole family,” according to Times reporter David Zahniser.

Quite a shock. Setareh probably thought that the laws of Los Angeles don’t apply to him and now he gets to spend time in the slammer while he scrabbles around to post the $1M bail that City Attorney Trutanich demanded.

The illegal billboard “business” blossomed under the previous administration of disgraced former City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, much like the illegal marijuana shop business also did on his watch. But all that is set to change now that newly elected City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has shown that he is serious about helping the City get to grips with both problems.

The shock to the illegal billboard business community is sure to be a boost to Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys, as there are hundreds of these illegal supergraphics and billboards throughout the City. Most offenders were confident that the worst consequence for their law breaking might be a complex lawsuit at worst, and a slap on the wrist fine. Few can have expected that the cost of breaking the billboard law could mean a trip to jail.

Of course, Los Angeles Councilwoman Jan Perry  will not be surprised by the news that breaking the billboard law could land an offender in jail. Last year Perry squealed like a stuck pig when she was told of the potential consequences of breaking the law, claiming that she was “threatened” by Trutanich.

So while Setareh stares at four walls in jail wondering whether it was worth breaking the law, perhaps his “shocked” family will raise a few “Dead Presidents” for Perry’s 2013 Mayoral campaign. After all, it seems to have worked for AEG – they got Perry to make ‘exceptions’ for their billboards, so maybe Perry can do a little fixing for Setareh?

In the meantime, Kayvan Setareh has been accused of 3 violations of the Los Angeles Municipal Code, and is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Jan Perry Fails to Silence Zuma Dogg

February 22, 2010

If there’s one person in the Los Angeles City Council who best exemplifies all that is wrong in our City as well as all that is wrong in politics today, it is Councilwoman Jan Perry.

The woman simply has no shame, none whatsoever. She shamelessly panders to AEG’s big bucks when it comes to allowing the City to bankroll their Michael Jackson parade, and worse, she openly flaunts the law when she makes ‘exceptions’ for AEG’s billboards.

With Perry openly campaigning to be the next Mayor of Los Angeles, you have to wonder why the winner of the Mayor Sam Blog’s Political Ass Clown of the Year 2009 couldn’t have shown a little more restraint when faced with hostile public comment last week.

It seems that Perry stampeded all over former 2009 Mayoral Candidate David Saltsburg, aka Zuma Dogg, during public comment in Council Chambers. Saltsburg was commenting on Perry’s motion to fire 4,000 City employees when Perry ordered the microphone to be cut off, bringing Saltsburg’s comments to an untimely end.

Saltsburg posted the picture below on his blog, L.A. Daily.

Saltsburg states that:
“On Friday, Jan Perry kept turning my mic down, telling me to, ‘turn my voice down.”

I continued to speak and deliver my FEDERAL & STATE PROTECTED FREE SPEECH.

The [explicative deleted] said, for a second time,”alright cut his mic…cut his mic.”

Saltsburg apparently then left the Council Chamber and went to see City Attorney Carmen Trutanich (as the picture would seem to indicate) to report what he considers to be a violation of his First Amendment rights.

If, indeed, Jan Perry did unduly silence Saltsburg she may well have violated the Brown Act, as a recent report into similar actions by the Mayor of Carson would seem to indicate.

It is unknown how long Saltsburg spent with Tutanich on Friday, or whether his Office will take any action as Trutuanich’s job is to defend the City (and Perry) in an action brought by the District Attorney’s Office for a violation of the Brown Act.

Although Saltsburg has a reputation of being a gadfly and irritant to certain Los Angeles City Councilmembers, cutting off comments that criticize decisions of the City Council could be seen as a sign of intemperance on the part of Perry, who has been trying to build bridges to the powerful Westside Jewish community in support of her Mayoral aspirations. The Jewish Journal recently published an interview with Perry where she explained that she was Jewish, having converted to the religion some 20 years previously. Her explanation was doubtless intended to suggest that Perry will be a good Mayor to the Jewish community, but given her behavior towards Saltsburg, it could backfire.

If Perry though she could silence Saltsburg by cutting off the microphone, she’s in for a surprise. Saltsburg has vowed to flood the internet with anti-Perry comments to such an extent that any Google search will show negative stories about Perry’s past.

Perry is one of several Los Angeles Councilmembers who will be termed out in 2013, and who have also indicated that they will be running of Mayor. Councilmembers Eric Garcetti is the clear favorite followed by Tom LaBonge and Ed Reyes. Additionally, Controller Wendy Greuel has hired John Shalman as her campaign consultant for her Mayoral campaign.

Councilmember Jose Huizar – Lone Voice of Sanity?

February 2, 2010

Today’s LA Times carries the following Op-Ed by Councilmember Jose Huizar who represents the 14th Council District. It’s worth reading because Huizar was one of the first Councilmembers to actually understand the awful mess that his fellow Councilmember, Paul Koretz, created when he failed to deal with the real problems of source, supply and sales when he co-authored SB420. Huizar was brave enough to accept the sound but unpopular advice of the City Attorney, Carmen Trutanich, that the retail store model of marijuana shops was neither intended nor authorized by State Law. Koretz, the coward, chose to deflect blame for his incompetence by blaming the City Attorney for giving accurate legal advice, instead of doing what Huizar did, facing the facts and the law.

I recommend that you read Huizar’s piece.


L.A. can’t go it alone on pot

L.A.’s new ordinance on pot dispensaries attempts to answer the needs of the ailing while ensuring public safety and abiding by state and federal law.

By José Huizar

February 2, 2010

The Los Angeles City Council last week finally adopted a medical marijuana ordinance. Though not perfect, it balances the needs of local communities with those of patients who truly need access to medical marijuana. And it will rein in an out-of-control situation in which a federally banned substance has been sold for the last four years as hundreds of dispensaries proliferated in the city of Los Angeles, with no local regulations and ambiguous state laws to guide us.

To make the new ordinance work as effectively as possible, legislators need to clarify the state’s medical marijuana laws — Proposition 215 and its accompanying SB 420. Both are silent or vague on critical issues for the practical implementation at the local level.

As cities throughout California draft ordinances, they are grappling with issues that they have no power over and that should be handled at the state level. Moreover, they are trying to pinpoint evolving and changing court rulings interpreting state law.

In Los Angeles, one of the most difficult issues was what constitutes a “sale.” My colleagues on the City Council and I addressed this by stipulating that although no collective shall operate for profit, “cash and in-kind contributions, reimbursements and reasonable compensation” are allowed as long as they comply with current state law. However, we don’t know how this provision will be enforced because we are relying on state law that is unclear and in litigation.

It is also unclear whether the over-the-counter dispensary model was what voters intended when they approved Proposition 215. The law might have intended a much more limited distribution of marijuana, such as having either patients or their caregivers grow their own product or having collectives grow a small amount and reimburse members for their labor.

Without clarity from the state, the council also had to punt on the issues of cultivation and transportation of marijuana by saying that the ordinance would abide by state law.

Cultivation is important because the ordinance as written does not address where the collectives will obtain their marijuana. Will it be grown locally, imported from Northern California or bought on the black market? And are people who transport the marijuana to and from collectives immune from prosecution?

Another issue that is not being addressed locally but perhaps is the biggest impediment to properly regulating dispensaries relates to the wide discretion and relative immunity that physicians have in recommending medical marijuana to patients. When most of us have a medical issue, we don’t look through the pages of alternative weeklies to find a physician. We go to the doctor who knows the most about our medical history — our primary-care physician.

Yet under state law there is no requirement to curb abuse by having people see their primary-care physician first, or, as Oregon does, to require that a patient get a note from an “attending physician” with whom he or she has an established patient/physician relationship.

It’s interesting to note that Oregon, like several other states, only allows medical marijuana for a narrow list of conditions. In contrast, in California, marijuana can be recommended for anything from cancer to writer’s cramp. So, although California voters have not (yet) directed the state to legalize marijuana for nonmedical use, the state medical marijuana law has created de facto legalization because practically anyone can become a qualified patient.

Given these ambiguities, the city has provided an ordinance within existing state law that does its best to create access for medical marijuana patients while protecting local communities from potential negative consequences.

The council voted to support a requirement that dispensaries be at least 1,000 feet from sensitive-use areas where children and families gather, such as schools, playgrounds and places of worship — and from other dispensaries.

We also capped the number of collectives at 70 (instead of the estimated 700-plus that exist) and required notification to neighborhood councils before new dispensaries open in their areas. To control profiteering, we also required annual audits and outlawed common ownership of multiple collectives.

I, like a majority of California voters, voted in favor of Proposition 215 because I believe that patients dealing with cancer, AIDS, chronic pain and other serious ailments should have access to medical marijuana.

However, I remain concerned about profiteers looking to make a quick buck, recreational users looking to use an ambiguous state law to their advantage and less-than-scrupulous doctors willing to play along by writing quick and unverified recommendations. Though seemingly innocuous to some, these unchecked activities can lead to real problems in local communities should the state refuse to further regulate medical marijuana. I encourage state legislators to immediately amend SB 420 to deal with its ambiguities.

In the future, if the voters legalize marijuana for recreational use, I would hope that the state provides clear and practical rules for local implementation, unlike what has occurred with medical marijuana.

José Huizar represents the 14th District on the Los Angeles City Council.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

In case you want contrast Huizar with Koretz, take a look at what Koretz said about the joke that is medical marijuana by clicking here.

City Attorney Trutanich to Fight City Hall on Cuts

February 1, 2010

Although the local media covered the announcement that the Mayor plans to cut 100 jobs at the City Attorney’s Office while not reducing his staff or those of the 15 Councilmembers, it was the blogosphere that broke the news that Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is planning to fight back.

Longtime Los Angeles political gadfly and blogger Zuma Dogg’s L.A. Daily  Blog reported that Trutanich will sue the Mayor and the City Council. “He’ll sue (file an injunction) in Superior Court over State Law that says you cannot use budget excuse to eliminate the ability of a government official to perform their mandated duties,” according to Zuma Dogg.

While the L.A. Daily Blog related Trutanich’s strategy, the City Hall Insider quoted an article in the Los Angeles Times that suggested the Mayor and City Council’s threatened cuts might a way of reminding the City Attorney that they can control him because they hold the purse strings to his ability to function.

It was the Los Angeles Dragnet that perhaps gave a little more insight into the actions of the Mayor and the Council, suggesting that the true motive was not budgetary, but payback for the embarrassment City Attorney Trutanich had caused them over a variety of issues that the City Council had been previously been unable to handle. Those identified as being particularly interested in punishing Trutanich were reported to be “Mayoral aspirant” Jan Perry who Trutanich shamed into revealing her close relationship with AEG in the Michael Jackson Memorial fiasco and the digital billboards exception that Perry was forced to make for her longtime political supporters.

Also mentioned was Councilmember Ed Reyes, who many believe was made to look stupid and irrelevant over his mishandling of the marijuana shop ordinance.

But perhaps the most compelling theory behind the staff cutbacks was that it would force the City Attorney to resume the old ‘pay to play’ policy of hiring private law firms to conduct legal affairs on behalf of the City when the City Attorney is unable to undertake the work. Trutanich had vowed to end the practice which saw a small group of expensive private law firms share a lucrative stream of taxpayer money for work that could easily be performed in house. Pressure from these firms, who contribute generously to political campaigns, is not a far fetched theory as faced with cuts, the City Attorney would have to use ‘Outside Counsel.”

The Los Angeles Dragnet also reported that  that Trutanich held a secret briefing with his top aides on Saturday morning where a full briefing was given on how the City Attorney plans to legally challenge the attempts being made to limit his operation. Given Trutanich’s impressive record of successes in the 6 months since taking office, City Hall could be in for another nasty surprise.

Bratton Taps Weiss for Top Job – State Bar Issues Remain

January 28, 2010

The Los Angeles Times reported that former LAPD Police Chief Bill Bratton has picked former City Attorney candidate Jack Weiss to head up the Los Angeles end of his ne global investigations company, Altegrity Risk International. Click here for the full story.

Bratton’s choice is not altogether surprising. While Chief of LAPD, Bratton controversially endorsed Weiss for Los Angeles City Attorney, alongside Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Controller candidate Wendy Greuel.

Weiss suffered a surprising defeat in the May 19, 2009 General Election, losing to an independent candidate, Carmen Trutanich, who was a political outsider. Weiss’s defeat shocked City Hall and brought an abrupt end to the Westside Democrat’s political career. There had always been concerns about Weiss; he had angered his own constituents by ignoring their concerns to such an extent that they started a recall campaign, and his campaign for City Attorney was severely hampered by a string of attacks based on allegations of unethical conduct.

Ultimately, the man who many expected to be a “shoe in” for a future in the limelight of Los Angeles politics, bowed out quietly. Jack Weiss left City Hall on June 30, 2009 and was rumored to be appointed by Mayor Villaraigosa as deputy mayor for homeland security at Los Angeles International Airport. Public outcry at the prospect of this appointment (the Mayor’s office received numerous emails condemning the appointment) stopped the plan.

Six months later and the dust has settled. While Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is rarely out of the news in the City and is enjoying a bumpy ride at City Hall, little has been heard of Weiss. Today’s announcement by Bratton was a surprise. Bratton has always demanded the highest of standards from his subordinates, and many felt that Bratton had been pressured into endorsing Weiss. However, Bratton’s choice of Weiss seems to set aside any suggestion that his endorsement was anything but genuine.

Bratton may, however, be disturbed to find that the ethical concerns that plagued Weiss during his two terms in City Hall and which were prominently raised by his opponent during the City Attorney race have not gone away. Political Blog “Los Angeles Dragnet” today reports that Weiss may be in violation of California State Bar Rule 2.2 and 2.3 which requires a member of the State Bar to maintain accurate record of his place of business, and report any change of address within 30 days.

According to our search of the State Bar’s member records today, Weiss still lists himself as Councilmember for District 5, and continues to use City Hall as his address.

Of course, as Bratton’s new company is private and not subject to State Bar Rules, the former Los Angeles Police Chief may not be concerned that his new employee has not followed the rules, however, sources believe that Weiss’s violation for State Bar rules could subject him to fines and public or private reproval.

Mayor Sam Blog Shuts Down

January 18, 2010

Michael Higby, Mayor Sam's Alter Ego

On Sunday, January 17, 2009, respected political commentator and prolific blogger, Mayor Sam, announced the end of an era by saying ‘Adios.’

The longtime prickly thorn in the ass of many Los Angeles politicians and political appointees gave no reason for his decision to cease being the most widely read and feared blogger in Los Angeles.

Some say Higby is burnt out with the backstabbing, corrupt and unaccountable nature of Los Angeles politics that has not changed in the five years since Higby started his blog.

Others speculate that his is disillusioned, perhaps, at not being acknowledged as the leading political blog in Los Angeles by the LA Weekly, who recently published their list of top blogs.

One thing is certain, the political machine is delighted at the death of Mayor Sam, or even the ‘hiatus’ that Higby claimed to be taking. It gives them breathing space.

Be assured, however, that while Higby has signed off, others will do their best to make the ‘business as usual’ politicians squirm every time they try to pull off stunts to please their special interests. With at least 5 city councilmembers vying to be Mayor in 2013 never has the need been greater to watch the likes of Jan Perry, and Ed Reyes. Mayor Sam’s Blog gave them both richly deserved ‘Political Ass Clown” awards for their ‘personal’ attention to contentious issues in Los Angeles and their unashamed bias towards special interests.

The battle to make politicians accountable and answerable to the electorate will continue here, as well as on other blogs listed here, but we will miss you Mayor Sam.