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Why Council Debates Attract Gadflies Like Dog Poop Attracts Flies

What does it say about the nature of City Council debates that 95 percent of the public comments come from Zuma, Matt, Mike, Donna, Arnold, John and the rest of the cast of gadflies who somehow manage to show up for nearly every meeting?

No need to answer. It’s clear enough that Council debates are all but meaningless, ham acting and posturing, leading questions to bureaucrats, mugging for the camera, displays of expensive wardrobes, all a scripted show leading to unanimous votes on just about everything.

Only on rare occasions like the great elephant debate or billboard blight or developments that trash neighborhoods do ordinary citizens show up in numbers large or small.

Why would you waste your time talking to people who don’t listen or care what you have to say?

Council debates attract gadflies like dog poop attracts flies and for much the same reason.

Considering what a waste of time public comment is, it makes perfect sense that the Council will do its best Wednesday to swat even the gadflies from participating.

Council Rule 12, which sets vague and arbitrary rules for decorum subject to the interpretation of the Council President, is being toughened to eliminate the need for even warning before a speaker can be banished and extends the banishment from 30 days to 30 meetings, or 10 weeks.

They might just as well eliminate public comment altogether, convert the hallowed Council Chambers into homeless housing and conduct their meetings in a small studio. After all, the real business is done in back rooms where lobbyists, union bosses, lawyers, contractors, corporate executives and developers work out the details with Council members and their staffs.

Public comment is about as important as writing letters and sending faxes and emails — a waste of time.

We’d all be better off protesting in the streets or sitting down in front of the bulldozers. At least that would get media attention and the 83 percent of registered voters who are apathetic, defeated or ignorant might actually wake up and take notice.

Here’s a better idea; Council Rule 12A, Equal Time in the Back Rooms for the public and special interests.

Under this proposal, each Council member would post all contacts they and their staffs have every week, the issues discussed and the duration. The public would then have the next week to gain the same amount of access to find out what was discussed and to make their views known.

Put that together with “clean money” funding of election campaigns and you might have something that began to look like democracy and responsible government.

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20 Responses to Why Council Debates Attract Gadflies Like Dog Poop Attracts Flies

  1. In Eagle Rock says:

    I agree with your opinion that Council does a lot of their decision making on “action items” in backrooms with special interest (none of which represent the general public) and the lobbyists. I disagree with the overall view that the public comment is useless.
    The presentations that happen in public comment do have some impact on the CMs beyond being a pain in the ass. A lot of what transpires from the comments by, and especially by, the gadflies you list, bring attention to the general public where there would be complete secrecy about the process otherwise. The CMs do use their time to showboat and make themselves sound smart and powerful when they are mostly blowing hot air that fools no one familiar with the issues.
    The problem is that most people are not familiar with the issues and the ignorance of the voters on city matters continues in perpetuity. What people, notably, Zuma Dogg, do of a postive nature by any measure, is to bring the mumbo-jumbo of the legalese that litter the daily agendas and motions that bury the true function of these devices so that business can be conducted as they please. The piercing of this veil of secrecy that was created by the “language barrier”- in many ways similar to the presentation of the “10% reduction in phone tax” lie, and the “term limits” ballot measure that extended terms for CMS- happens when you have a person able to address the council and to make it more accessible in terms of seeing that wool is being pulled over one’s eyes continually.
    The CMs have been embarrassed by revelations and the quiet practice of sliding measures by under the very noses of the public becomes more difficult when you have somebody shouting out (figuratively, and sometimes literally) what is really happening. The breaking down of the cryptic language of motions and agenda action and the exposing the council’s subterfuge gradully bring in people who otherwise would not see what’s there. Many of those newer “fans” of the “gadflies” become more interested in the Council actions as it’s broken into understandable terms and consequencs.
    That probably would be reduced and the whole council attitude of “butt out” would increase as limitations on comments in Council chambers is allowed. I think the apathy on city issues is becoming less so when there is a population that can understand what is really happening in City Hall instead of trusting decisions to these politicians. All that glamour and aura of power and authority is exactly what the Council members want to cultivate to have people bow and scrape and most importantly, not interfere with the decisions of CMs. We all see that they are as fallible as anyone else and can be dopey as the next guy in many respects. Like “the man behind the curtain” in the “Wizard of Oz,” there is nothing really there behind the image and they should be challenged when they don’t do right.
    Putting the council business in understandable English is not what CMs want, and removing the people who speak out against this and removing the opportunity for more people to do the same is precisely the goal of the CMs.
    AS A SECOND MATTER, the CMs should have some public records obligation to show those with whom they speak and subject, and access to CMs on the same time basis for opposing views should be mandated.
    I liked the proposal that the CMs and lobbyists scorned a while back that required I.D. badges to be worn by lobbyists to show more openess in city hall- It would have been like the infra-red cameras used by police helicopters to help see the culprits hiding in the bushes after being chased by police; they cannot evade the infra-red camera. Maybe posting a daily sheet for each CM similarly available as is the Council Meeting Agenda now, that shows meetings held with people and that identify the represented groups. At least we could see why some votes turn out as they do.
    Maybe there could be a rule that causes CMs to manditorily recuse themselves when issues come up that involve those who have contributed campaign funds above, say, $100.00. That would take away a lot of suspicion concerning the pay-to-play practice that Mayor Tony used to say was the problem with the James Hahn admistration. We wouldn’t have to depend on pledges of “unaffected judgment” as professed by Rocky Delgadillo when he received over $400,000.00 of free campaign billboard advertising while some of the same billboard companies were adversaries to the city- and oddly enough, got such sweet deals that the court invalidated the restrictions imposed upon those billboard companies who were competing with the “friends” of Delgadillo. All a waste of money, and leaving the City worse off than before, and we still are looking for some billboard regulation in the aftermath. We don’t need more of that.
    I trust the CMs little, if at all, and allowing them to decide who are the people can speak and when, especially when these are NOT people SUPPORTING their views, makes me more distrustful of them and their motives.
    As a final matter, a point not brought out in the item today, a part-time council with reduced pay is really a way to sort out the career self-serving politicians of the type like Fabian Nunez and Gil Cedillo, from those who may be thinking occasionally of the city, the common citizens and the well-being of each.

  2. Kristin Sabo says:

    “Considering what a waste of time public comment is, it makes perfect sense that the Council will do its best Wednesday to swat even the gadflies from participating.”
    Sorry Ron, this is false logic. If councilmembers doesn’t care, why would they even bother to
    1. attract public attention, and
    2. attract possible lawsuits to the action?
    I think you need to look a little deeper into why they are taking a preemptive strike at silencing those who speak in public comment.

  3. Anonymous says:

    No to the last poster. You can’t pretend like it’s the gadflies that need silencing and that’s what you’re intimating. Right?
    The public, including Ron Kaye need to understand how council works and the public comment needs to be done in committee meetings where the lobbyists are.
    Either you follow every single case/issue that interests you and attend every single meeting regarding that issue or you go to city council wasting your time at public comment.
    Forget those women who yammer in Van Nuys. They aren’t bright enough to get the real answers anyway. I think they just like to see themselves on channel 35.
    Zuma Dogg is one smart cookie. He gets information and he’s not afraid to spit it out there. If he’s interpreting something wrong, he’s completely open to hearing the other side and when he finds out he’s been had or been misinterpreting, he corrects it.
    So what is the deeper reason they are taking a preemptive strike at silencing public speakers then?

  4. Anonymous says:

    I just went and listened to Greig Smith and Herb Wesson going on about “respect” and what is allowed in a court of law.
    That is proof of how pompous these guys think they are. They are not judges in a court of law. They are not running a court of law.
    They are elected officials who are all elected by a very tiny portion of the population of the city because the average citizen is fed up with THEM, not people like Zuma Dogg.

  5. Bruno says:

    Dog poop? Hey, that’s my department!

  6. Kristin Sabo says:

    1:29, I didn’t intimate jack.
    What I said was Ron’s logic is flawed and he needs to rethink the argument.
    That’s it.

  7. ZD says:

    thanks 1:27pm and to the other people with supportive comments who get my function.

  8. Anonymous says:

    “Council Rule 12, which sets vague and arbitrary rules for decorum subject to the interpretation of the Council President, is being toughened to eliminate the need for even warning before a speaker can be banished and extends the banishment from 30 days to 30 meetings, or 10 weeks.”
    Mr. Eric Garcetti, a want to be council president, should be worrying about his colleges being on time at chambers, instead of always awaiting a Quorum or loosing a Quorum for no good reasons. Many times Mr. Eric Garcetti will say councilmember, blank, has left without permission and there is never a follow up reprimand from Mr. Eric Garcetti or Deputy City Attorney Dion. What a joke this is watching the council in action or missing in action, specifically when voting on an agenda item when council has lost a Quorum.
    Mr. Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti has placed a self serving umbrella as to what constitutes “disruptive” behavior that does not make any sense. Today, Councilmember Cardenas was yelling into his microphone and Mr. Eric Garcetti or Deputy City Attorney Dion did not say a word.
    Angelenos already have a great mechanism in place to fight against this type of abuse from city politicians which is called the Brown Act. When there is a Brown Act violation against any member of the public, yes public speaker, the public as a whole becomes the victim. Therefore, Angelenos need to start reporting any violation or perceived violation of the Brown Act to Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley who has the authority to make sure all Brown Act violations are investigated. The complaints can be submitted anonymously.
    • Brown Act Violations
    The Brown Act governs meetings conducted by local legislative bodies such as boards of supervisors, city councils and school boards. As these legislative bodies are charged with conducting the people’s business, the Brown Act ensures that the business be conducted in open meetings, allowing public access and a free exchange of opinions. The law recognizes that a balance must be struck between the public’s right to open meetings and the legislative body’s need for confidentiality in certain circumstances. Although the Brown Act allows for closed sessions in specific, narrowly drawn exceptions, there is a presumption in favor of public access.
    The District Attorney’s Office has the authority to prosecute individual members of the legislative body criminally and to initiate civil actions to prevent or nullify actions taken in violation of the Brown Act. The Public Integrity Division has the responsibility of investigating and prosecuting allegations of Brown Act violations.
    Public Integrity Division
    Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office
    320 West Temple St., Rm. 766
    Los Angeles, CA. 90012
    Phone: (213) 974-6501
    http://da.co.la.ca.us/pid.htm

  9. Anonymous says:

    So 6:43 wacko wants the public to give “anonymous tips” to DA Cooley so he can “prosecute criminally” those members of a legislative body who don’t pay enough attention to the public commenters, especially the gadflies who provoke them as much as possible and waste gads of time; or if they spend too much time trying to do business with “colleges” instead.
    Not only do members of the public have this option but the obligation to turn in any members of any legislative body from the Council to County Board of Supervisors (now there’s an idea, King Knabe, Viceroy Antonovich and Queen Molina), School Board, ETC. if they just THINK they’re not getting enough respect.
    “Angelenos need to start reporting “any violation or perceived violation to County D A Steve Cooley,” says our anon. source, quoting alleged code to reinforce the notion that it’s our legal duty to do this.
    Ah, the Cooley-Trutanich-David Berger McCarthyist Tribunals are JUST WAITING for any excuse to catch those “corrupt criminals.” Will their buddy Zine turn himself in on this one?

  10. Anonymous says:

    6:56 PM: you forgot to mention Jack Weiss!

  11. anonymous says:

    6:56 PM – Colleagues
    Mr. Eric Garcetti, a want to be council president, should be worrying about his COLLEAGUES being on time at chambers, instead of always awaiting a Quorum or loosing a Quorum for no good reasons. Many times Mr. Eric Garcetti will say councilmember, blank, has left without permission and there is never a follow up reprimand from Mr. Eric Garcetti or Deputy City Attorney Dion. What a joke this is watching the council in action or missing in action, specifically when voting on an agenda item when council has lost a Quorum.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Adding to 6:53′s twisting the Brown Act into McCarthyist tactics and urging people to “come forward to testify” just based on suspicions, Trutanich told James that he and Cooley are going criminally after any two people on Council or ANYWHERE who in their opinion “conspired to commit a misdemeanor” which could make it a felony.
    In other words they want to make them afraid to talk to each other at all or to anyone! Instilling a climate of fear is key.

  13. Charlie says:

    The Council members are concerned about being criticized on channel 35. They also don’t like re-opening projects heard before the PLUM committee. Garcetti is a good example. Even if there are speaker cards, he won’t even recognize them. What do you have to hide? If you believe in a project or initiative, why would you be scared to hear all sides and opinions and why not allow them to be televised?

  14. Lobbyists should be required to wear cow bells. They should be required also to disclose on line all contacts with elected officials and their staff and city employees and the nature of their business within four hours. This information should be in a centralized location as well on the public officials home page.
    Council Members and al other elected officials and city employees and their staffs should have the same disclose requirements.

  15. G. Shepherd says:

    By Bruno on July 28, 2009 1:48 PM
    Dog poop? Hey, that’s my department!
    I’ll help you out there, pal.
    But with the new formulations in modern kibble, dog poop ain’t what it used to be, and it might take two of us.
    Your friend,
    G.

  16. Sandy Sand says:

    I have an evil if not possibly effective idea as a way of getting the self-absorbed council members’ attention.
    It boils down to “money talks,” which they prove time again when they approve crummy crony deals with the likes of developers, billboard companies and city labor unions: Paper airplane $100 bills.
    Each speaker sends a C-note flying across the chamber to land on one of their desks. That’ll get their attention!
    Of course, first we have to get them to attend public comments. I ran into a televised public comments session a few days ago and 90 percent of the members’ seats were as empty as their heads.

  17. Lucille Saunders says:

    cow bells! lobbyists don’t even wear “visitor” badges!! …maybe “owner” tags??
    please note lobbyists have unfettered access with city officials, and staff. they are also not timed in their presentations–or even questioned on their assertions in hearings and meetings. they always present last and therefore citizens cannot even dispute their [often baseless] claims.
    let us keep the light of reality on these games.
    lucille saunders

  18. Still in Eagle Rock says:

    For all the silly thoughts that any CMs think of to compare their working environment to a court, in many years of observation, I have never seen anyone, council members, podium speakers, nominees for commission seats- absolutely no one ever take an oath affirming any obligation to tell the truth. That would be like a cross pushed in the face of a a vampire. Everything would come to a screeching halt. But that could be a good thing, too, considering all the oddities chosen as their tasks.
    Were that so, you might have less wind from the council side of chambers. It would also allow for some opportunity for doing real work on CM conduct for the D.A., like shooting fish in a barrel. The C.A. would have some quick business doing training sessions for CMs and staff on corruption, discrimination and general law to cut down liability, personal and city, for what goes on.
    As is is now, they just get carried away with their puffery. Perjury would get them actually carried away, and their might be more quiet and get business done more quickly- and I am speaking of the CMs side entirely, as the public comments would still be a minute portion of all time spent of all coucil meeting sessions.
    And if cowbell were worn by lobbyist (an intriguing idea), I doubt if anyone could be heard during meetings. We could color code all the players like crew members on an aircraft carrier according to duties. The results could be interesting.

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