The ‘Starbucks Stakeholder’ is Back, and Laughing at Jose Huizar

DONE WATCH–City Councilmember José Huizar and former President George W. Bush share some unfortunate traits proving due diligence isn’t their strong suit.

In 2003, with “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” writ large across an aircraft carrier, Bush triumphantly declared the end of major combat actions in Iraq.  Fifteen years later, we’re still “over there.”  Clearly, Bush got some bad intel, both on the war’s progress and on Saddam Hussein’s Costco sized cache of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

In 2013, with the LA Times, Huizar triumphantly declared, “We are putting an end to the Starbucks stakeholder,” the kind who votes in neighborhood council (NC) elections, and especially for ones who voted in his 14th District.

When Eagle Rock’s NC election was overrun with questionable voters, whose only valid claim to a ballot was patronizing a local business, Starbucks was deemed just as good as any other business, thus the deprecating “Starbucks Stakeholder” classification became synonymous with Bogus Voter.  In some cases, flash a Starbucks receipt and get handed a ballot, in others just affirm: “Yeah, I go to the Starbucks” also worked.

Huizar is a colorful personality who knows how to play a room, and like Karl ‘The Mailman’ Malone, he delivers.  Especially when it’s really good for some of his constituents (Hermon NC?) but maybe not so good for the City family.  After Eagle Rock’s dust settled, Huizar promulgated changing the legal definition of “Stakeholder” by eliminating an obtuse “Factual-Basis” reference and specifically adding the words, “Substantial and Ongoing” to thwart any fly-by-night or bussed-in voters.

Mission accomplished.

Uh, no.  Last week the City Clerk informed the Westwood community that for their upcoming, legally questionable, toxically contentious, sub-division election any voters declaring a stake by virtue of patronizing a local business, including Starbucks, are entitled to a ballot and its requisite vote.

How does Huizar … UCLA Law School graduate, José Huizar, get this soooooo wrong?  When all a trumped-up voter now has to say is, “I go to the Starbucks …  a lot,” and get handed a ballot.  Regardless of the outcome of Westwood/Westwood North subdivision (read: UCLA $tudent $ecession $cheme), one side will feel some salt burning in their wounds knowing ANYONE could’ve voted.

In all fairness, Huizar isn’t alone.  In the same LA Times story, Councilmember Paul Krekorian, a UC Berkeley Law School grad said, “This is a step we’ve needed to take for a very long time,” calling the previously loose definition “a fundamental problem.”  So, either the two most prestigious UC law schools really suck, or neither Huizar nor Krekorian actually read the ordinance before OK’ing it.  Because your average high school civics class could tell you anyone can vote when “substantial and ongoing” isn’t adequately defined, and also by its stating stakeholders “may” be part of a community organization, instead of “must” be.  So, working “Community Organization” as something “substantial” into the new definition has the net effect of zero in dissuading bogus voters.  Ergo, anyone can cast an illegitimate vote with little or no chance it will be rejected because the City has to adhere to the letter of the law, or, you know, risk being legitimately sued.   

How does this happen?

As with most NC related policy, the Mayor’s appointed Board of Neighborhood Commissioners (BONC) spends an inordinate amount of long-winded time discussing whatever, and then advises the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) whatever they think, then the two get with the City Attorney’s NC Advice Division, who writes up a municipal ordinance, and these three NC overseers go to City Council declaring they’ve solved a problem!

Taking them at their word, the City Council (and the Mayor) generally rubber-stamp whatever they’re told into law.  This should leave misinformed Starbucks-No-More councilmembers Huizar and Krekorian scratching their heads, but also screaming: “How.  Does.  This.  Happen!”

Well, because.  Because of bad intel.

The prime movers of the still fundamentally flawed stakeholder definition were BONC’s then V.P., Leonard ‘Len’ Shaffer, DONE’s Grayce ‘Rock Star’ Liu, and Deputy City Attorney, Darren “Not My Fault” Martinez.

MEMO TO CITY COUNCIL:  This is the same dream team who brought us a NC Sub-Division Policy time bomb, a Regional Grievance Panel kangaroo court system, a costly Online Voting debacle, and a purportedly “bulletproof” Stakeholder Definition anyone can drive a bus (full of voters) through.

Let’s face it; this triumvirate of NC overseers out stones the Keystone Cops.  When will you, our esteemed city councilmembers, realize they make you look like chumps?

While at the end of the day, they’re the ones providing the awful, self-serving, factually bereft intel, you’re the elected officials voting and signing it into law.  See also: complicit.  In the future, you might want to have someone who’s not them take a closer look at whatever it is they’re trying to sell you.  Either that, or demand some sort of shame free warranty for when whatever it is that was previously before you, inevitably goes sideways and lands right back in your laps to sort out.


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