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Sunday, December 28, 2008

City Hall Seeks to Silence Critics

It's amazing to me that this story has yet to show up in any of the local media when one considers the civil liberties implications of the Mayor of a major city taking opponents of a controversial measure to court to silence their dissent. In searching the net, the activist blogs are on the beat but our favorite nannypoo local status quo loving West Los Angeles suburban crank Kevin "Westside White Guy" Roderick poo poos Ron Kaye's story.

First some background to get you up to speed. Last month the Council rushed to place a measure on the March City Primary ballot which would effectively raise DWP rates 12% (on top of an already approved 24%) to fund an initiative for solar energy. The plan calls for the DWP to use taxpayer funds to place solar panels on the roofs of public and private buildings using only DWP employees who are members of the politically connected International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union whose various arms and committees have donated thousands of dollars to LA's elected officials in recent years, including chief plan proponents Council President Eric Garcetti, Council Member and City Controller candidate Wendy Greuel and Mayor Villaraigosa. The speed with which the Council moved to place the measure on the ballot led the LA Times to remark that it had the "scent of a swindle."

"This rush to the ballot has the scent of swindle about it."
LA Times

The next turn in the story of a swindle was excellent reporting by the only reporter apparently awake at the LA Times, David Zahniser discovered a "secret" analysis by a City hired consulting firm found the plan "extremely risky' and considerably more expensive than was being portrayed by the Department of Water and Power.'" The key findings of the analysis inlclude that the DWP, in the consultants analysis, does not have the infrastructure in place to carry out the program and that it would cost at least $2 billion more than DWP General Manager H. David Nahai claims it will.

Amazingly, according to Zahniser's report, when Garcetti received the consultant's findings he allegedly not only kept them from the public but his fellow members of the Council. After the sunlight shone by the Times' story, Garcetti released the report to Council members (of course well after they voted to place the measure on the ballot).

But here's where it gets worse. Former Daily News editor turned blogger and activist Ron Kaye joined with several other community activists in composing the ballot argument against the plan. However the straightforward argument, mild in tone, was apparently too much for the Mayor and the Council. Earlier last week Villaraigosa hired an attorney and drug Kaye and his co-writers - including City Controller candidate and former DWP Commissioner Nick Patsaouras - into court to challenge their argument, calling it full of lies and mistruths (read the argument and do your own research - Kaye's argument is backed up by the facts). Amazingly, in addition to asking the court to throw out the opponents' ballot argument, the Mayor and his toadies are asking Kaye et al to come up with the court costs.

"They have made our Christmas week tough, trying to find a lawyer, raise money, understand the law and the risks we face."
Ron Kaye

Kaye and his associates are faced with going up against high powered and high paid attorneys including a well funded plaintiff in the case - high powered lobbyist Mitchell Schwartz - particulary during the holidays when attorneys and resources are in limited supply. Kaye reports that attorney and longtime activist Noel Weiss - himself a candidate for City Attorney - has joined The Solar Eight -- Jack Humphreville, Soledad Garcia, Humberto Camacho, Kristine Lee, Nick Patsaouras, Joe Pulido, James O'Sullivan and Kaye - as their legal advisor in the fight.

The case's next hearing is January 8 where the group will answer the Mayor's toadies' charges. That is a significant date for civil liberties, transparency and good government in Los Angeles. We will be watching.

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33 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said:

This a free speech issue. The City Clerk solicited this input according to the election code.

Now someone wants to override the law and punish the citizens for speaking up- what else is new?

I wonder if the city clerk is named in the suit to block them from publishing the "against" argument. If not- why not? Is this lawsuit just to punish opponents?

This story will get bigger.

December 28, 2008 6:52 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Free the Solar Eight!!!

December 28, 2008 6:55 PM  

Blogger Walter Moore said:

You can read the lawsuit yourself at the website I've set up on three ballot measures, namely, VoteNoLA.com. Go to the part about Measure B, then the "Additional Resources" page.

December 28, 2008 7:06 PM  

Blogger Joe B. said:

Thanks for posting the info Walter. In your opinion, does the plaintiff have a case?

December 28, 2008 7:50 PM  

Blogger Walter Moore said:

The term "slam-dunk" comes to mind...

December 28, 2008 8:01 PM  

Blogger Joe B. said:

Would you care to elaborate? Thanks.

December 28, 2008 8:10 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Walter:

Fighting the attack on the No on B folks will require legal work and talent. That requires money that ordinary people don't have.

Would you be willing to provide your talent and time to help fight City Hall and its monied friends?

December 28, 2008 8:23 PM  

Blogger Walter Moore said:

I'll give one example.

Before I do, let me note that I oppose the proposed Charter amendment, for the reasons and based on the facts set forth at VoteNoLA.com.

Per Paragraph 18 of the petition, Elections Code 9295 prohibits false statements in ballot arguments.

Per Paragraph 20a of the petition, the ballot argument against the proposal stated, "There were no public hearings and no engineering and operational input from the DWP."

Repeat: the opponents stated, in their ballot argument, that there were NO public hearings.

Per Paragraph 20, that statement was false. In fact, there WERE public hearings.

You do the math.

December 28, 2008 8:32 PM  

Blogger Joe B. said:

Thanks for putting on your lawyer hat. Public hearings means to me a series of hearings over a specific topic held at various locations across the City to allow public input. City Council sessions, although public, were not what I would consider "hearings", nor were they devoted exclusively to this topic. Just my humble opinion that this argument could be made.

December 28, 2008 8:42 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Is Walter pissed the Ron Kaye crowd is pulling away from him?

December 28, 2008 8:45 PM  

Anonymous matt dowd said:

oh my goodness, these clowns [mayor et al] will trip up all over their own drooling tongues.
let's look at Villaraigosa: he lost a mayoral election already before falling in 2nd time round because of a Hahn backlash over firing of Bernia Parks. He lost his wife and family after cheating on his own election platform. He trotted out that AB1381 school cluster bullshit in front of the whole state, and media, so many times before being kicked to the curb in court. He massively lost his democratic candidate's nomination race because he backed Clinton over Obama. he's lost the City 400 million somehow if the budget crisis is examined. he's a fuckin' loser, and I wish I had written that ballot argument. I LOVE taking on these guys. they're hopeless. capital H in fact.
HOPELESS.
if he gets re-elected, I'll be leaving town. when meter parking for one hour in downtown LA stands at $3 in quarters, I already see this City is at the wall. ready, aim, FIRE!
this rat will be scuttling onto a way more seaworthy ship.
any suggestions? lol. that's an open call to all the haters...

December 28, 2008 8:47 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

8:23 are you kidding? Walter doesn't help anyone but himself. He won't get behind Ron Kaye.

But so what. According to this story Noel Weiss is helping Ron. Noel is way more qualified than Walter anyway.

Walter works for a billboard law firm.

December 28, 2008 8:48 PM  

Blogger Walter Moore said:

Courts cannot insert words that were omitted, nor omit words that were inserted. Courts, moreover, interpret words in their ordinary and usual sense.

Therefore, I would not hold my breath expecting the court to "interpret" the phrase "There were no public hearings" as meaning, "There were public hearings, but they weren't very good; they were only at City Hall, and not at Neighborhood Councils."

You can shoot the messenger all you want. But in my opinion, the Court will grant at least some of the relief sought.

The real focus, in my opinion, should be on the ballot measure itself. It's really a terrible idea. The lawsuit is a minor sideshow compared to the yet-to-be quantified burden this program would impose on rate-payers.

Most of us support solar power. That, however, does not mean we should support this particular proposal.

December 28, 2008 9:03 PM  

Blogger Walter Moore said:

P.S. I actually volunteered to help with the argument on December 6, 2008. My input was never sought. I proceeded apace with the two ballot arguments I had been selected to write, namely, re Measures A and E. I also added analysis of my own on Measure B. It's all at VoteNoLA.com -- with supporting materials to back up every assertion I make in my arguments.

December 28, 2008 9:05 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

One wonders if Walter Moore if he were being sued by the Mayor for one of his ballot arguments if he would sing a different tune. He would be insisting all of you help him.

December 28, 2008 9:15 PM  

Blogger Joe B. said:

Thank you Walter for your input.
I can't wait to see how this plays out.

December 28, 2008 9:33 PM  

Anonymous LouieG said:

Did they seek any kind of relief before filing this suit?

Did they ask Ron et. al. to change their tune?

Did the ask the city clerk to fix it?

If not, they're wasting our money and time.

Court is supposed to be a last resort.

Walter, what about this?

December 28, 2008 9:47 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

One comment in the Ron Kaye blog states that such a legal challenge is par for the course. That is, this always is part of the ballot process.

Is that true? If so, could someone tell me what other ballot initiative arguments were challenged?

It really bothers me that my tax dollars are being used in such a way and I am curious how often this occurs.

I would think a better approach would be that each "side" is privy to what the other is writing so that each can address their points. Keep it out of the courts and leave my tax dollars alone so that the money can be used to fund corporate unions and other dishonorable endeavors.

December 28, 2008 9:55 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Walter, would you please answer our question about your involvement with the billboard compaines? It's okay if you felt this was a free enterprise type of battle. Who would have known? You're entitled to your opinion. We just want to know if the allegation is true. If so, why? Have you already explained it on your website? If so, would you kindly direct me to the link?

December 28, 2008 9:59 PM  

Anonymous Mighty Mouse said:

Mr. Garcetti;

Nuking the desert at just the right altitude will produce all the silicon we need for solar power.

December 28, 2008 11:01 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

OK, I see what Walter's problem is. He wanted to be selected to write the No on B argument, but he wasn't selected, so now he's pouting about it.

For a while, Walter was the only one who was aware of the deadlines to volunteer to write arguments and he enjoyed the thought of seeing his name all over the ballot pamphlet, and being the one who the media would contact for the no point of view.

Walter, as an attorney you know full well that if the phrase "there were no public hearings" is incorrect that the con side can, in court, submit alternate language, such as saying that there were no hearings at the DWP commission. There can also be a settlement agreement. And, in fact, the court can direct that certain words be added or deleted as it did with Prop. R.

Don't be so childish.

December 28, 2008 11:17 PM  

Blogger Walter Moore said:

LouieG --

You are exactly right: the cost-efficient thing for the petitioner to have done would have been to approach the opponents to see if they would agree to a modification.

However, given the tight deadlines, the petitioner may have wanted the lawsuit in place -- especially since the City Clerk may have felt she lacked the authority to modify the argument after the deadline without a court order.

The best thing for all concerned now would be to stipulate to a revised argument that clarifies or omits the problematic language. The petition identifies it, so the opponents could propose omitting or revising it. That would be the cost-efficient way to resolve this.

By the way, I'm not at all sure the proponents' argument could pass the truth test. I wonder how a counter-suit would fare? You could wind up with a really short "pro" argument....

December 29, 2008 7:20 AM  

Blogger Walter Moore said:

P.S. No lawyer in his right mind would file an action regarding my ballot arguments. Every statement in my ballot arguments is not only true, but is supported by evidence that I provide, via hyperlink, at my VoteNoLA.com website.

Nor would Villaraigosa or any other proponent want the embarrassment of losing such a case in court -- especially since they have millions to throw in support of their special-interest pork projects.

Here, however, unless the parties enter into a stipulation, the opponents may wind up having lost much of their credibility, which could itself become the focus of negative advertising.

That is why, in my opinion, the focus should be on the actual provisions of the proposal, rather than on whether one side or the other is making false statements. As I mentioned before, I've identified several of the problems with the proposal at the website I set up on three ballot measures: VoteNoLA.com.

December 29, 2008 7:27 AM  

Anonymous matt dowd said:

a court can also make parties bear their own costs.

December 29, 2008 7:30 AM  

Blogger Walter Moore said:

P.P.S. A point of context: My comment at 9:03 p.m. was a response to Joe B's comment of 8:42 p.m.

In reviewing the ballot argument to see whether it was false, the court cannot add or omit argument, but must instead base its decision on the words as they appear.

In granting relief, however, the Court may very well wind up deleting language. I'm not sure, but I suspect it could add words as well, within limits.

The former is a question of liability; the latter, relief.

December 29, 2008 7:32 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Dowd, go back to the beach and peddle your incense.

Your knowledge of law is spotty and your promise to leave LA is the best news any of us have gotten from this blog.

Villaraigosa will win this election in the primary, and YOU should get back on a boat for Aussieland.

Bye now, don't let the door hit you in the ass when you leave.

December 29, 2008 8:52 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Dowd, go back to the beach and peddle your incense.

Your knowledge of law is spotty and your promise to leave LA is the best news any of us have gotten from this blog.

Villaraigosa will win this election in the primary, and YOU should get back on a boat for Aussieland.

Bye now, don't let the door hit you in the ass when you leave.

December 29, 2008 8:52 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

You people are learning what some of us have known for some time:

Walter is all about Walter. He won't help anyone unless it pays him in some fashion.

Walter isn't getting the fawning support from the SLAP/Ron Kaye people that he expected so he is being what Zuma Dave Elliott Saltsburg calls "a crybaby loser."

He loses.

December 29, 2008 8:54 AM  

Blogger Walter Moore said:

Exactly how many of Villaraigosa's 93 staffers are tasked to this particular blog?

December 29, 2008 9:24 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Not only is Walter not getting fawning support from the SLAP people, you should hear what people actually have to say about him.

Word scramble: aricst gneada

Walter would be shocked to hear what people say about him. But I think he is starting to get the idea. People just don't connect with his harsh, angry, mean tone.

December 29, 2008 9:29 AM  

Anonymous Phil Jennerjahn said:

The media should be all over this story. Too bad that professional journalism doesn't exist here.

The Mayor and his cronies are actually suing citizens because they don't like them opposing a crooked money grab of 3 BILLION taxpayer dollars?? For an unproven, untested, flaky concept like DWP oversight of a single-union installed solar panel system? Come on.

Vote Phil Jennerjahn for Mayor.

This city needs Conservative leadership.
The Democratic dictatorship here in Los Angeles is costing taxpayers billions.

These people need to go.

www.philjennerjahn.com

December 29, 2008 9:49 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Walter, you're sounding as if you never went to law school, or that you don't understand how the city works.

The City Clerk on her own cannot modify ballot arguments because she thinks that a statement might be false or misunderstood.

The pro side, the one with the money, didn't want to to meet with the other side to discuss a settlement because it's easier for them to spend a few bucks, bring in a high powered attorney, sue, and hope that the other side, usually ordinary people, can't raise the money to hire their own attorney and fight back.

Interestingly, the people did fight back on their own, despite what Walter said, on Prop. R and won in Superior Court.

Don't be so negative Walter. The people do have the ability to win a few now and then. You should try helping them some time.

Whether the people win or lose in court, it's an opportunity for them to generate free publicity.

December 29, 2008 11:22 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Walter only you and Hal Netkin care if we have to push 1 for English.

We don't need a Minuteman for Mayor when there are other ways to fix the problems Villaraigosa caused.

Mexicans don't like Villaraigosa anymore than you do Moore.

So stop hating on them.

December 29, 2008 12:27 PM  

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