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City Report on Special Events Lacks Cost, Attendance Figures

City staff put together a list of 206 sponsored events in 2010 that lacks turnout information and expenses. An unhappy council is demanding the new information within a month.

Wondering how many people attend the special events West Hollywood puts on and how much they cost? So is the City Council. In fact, the council was so curious, it directed City Hall staff to write a report on the subject.

But when that report came back at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, it did not contain the information the council requested, leaving council members none too happy.

In July, the council directed staff to come up with a report of all the special events the city puts on, including cost and attendance figures. Such a report was needed to evaluate how the city is spending its money in light of the fact that six city staff positions (including a code compliance officer) were frozen and not being filled.

The report the council got contained a list of 206 special events the city put on in 2010, everything from the annual Halloween Carnival to a senior Valentine’s Dance to the Rainbow Key Awards ceremony. Included in that report was the date, location and type of event, but no information about cost or attendance.

Mayor John Duran said they could not evaluate the data without cost and attendance figures.

Councilman John D’Amico agreed, saying, “This doesn’t get to the goal of having a better understanding of how we’re spending money on the events that we’re doing.”

Councilwoman Abbe Land said they needed to know how much staff time was used in producing an event to fairly evaluate it. Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Prang said the report needed to distinguish ongoing events from one-time events.

Councilman John Heilman said they needed to know what constituencies were being served by each event to make sure certain groups of people were not being underserved.  

Data not in yet

City Manager Paul Arevalo defended the report, explaining that they did not have the final cost and attendance information yet. Hearing that, audience members talking amongst themselves wondered why since the report was for 2010 events, not 2011 events.

But Arevalo did not elaborate. He said final cost and attendance figures would be included as part of the biannual budget review process in the spring.

Land said they needed to have the information well in advance of the budget.

Duran concurred, saying, “206 does seem to be excessive. All of the five of us wish to have some input into that rather to delegating it to the budget subcommittee.”

Arevalo said he would have to schedule a council meeting where the report was the only substantive item on the agenda since it would take considerable time to go through each event. The council directed him to do so for the Feb. 21 meeting.

During public comment time, former City Councilman Steve Martin criticized the shoddy staff report, saying that the council had given clear direction about the report it wanted.

“Welcome to what the rest of us have to go through dealing with staff,” Martin said, pointing out that residents are often stymied trying to get information out of City Hall staff. “This is an issue of respect. Staff does work for you and the public. It’s embarrassing this is happening.”

According to the report, of the 206 special events the city put on in 2010, 62 were events that the city sponsored (city staff produced the event entirely). The city co-sponsored 33 events. All of them carry direct costs to the city.

The report also lists 22 events that the city endorsed and 89 events the city helped to promote. None of those events carried direct costs to the city.

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Rudolf Martin January 20, 2012 at 05:13 PM
this is absolutely outrageous and it was disturbing to see the council members NOT finding this outrageous. john heilman said that staff had been very busy with special events lately!!! for 6 months straight?? too busy to list those events and what they cost? when steve martin (no relation btw) addressed this absurdity the room fell absolutely silent. you could have heard a pin drop. and when the city manager stated that he would be able to have more information by the end of next month, he carefully warned that it was going to be incomplete and vague numbers ("it's gonna be what it's gonna be!"). In any private business he would not have survived this report and certainly would not have gotten away with his flippant response. He makes more money than the mayor of LA or the governor of CA and doesn't even live in WeHo. I predict that this is the tip of the iceberg and this issue will lead to some serious upheaval in WeHo city hall!
jimmy palmieri January 20, 2012 at 05:47 PM
JOHN HEILMAN APPARANTLY DOES NOT WANT THE PUBLIC TO KNOW WHAT THE CITY IS SPENDING OF THE PUBLICS MONEY ON EGO PROJECTS. 140 THOUSAND FOR A BOOK FAIR THAT SERVES WHAT HAS BEEN REPORTED AS POSSIBLY LESS THAN 9000 PEOPLE IS A DISGRACE. THEY THROW NUMBERS OUT LIKE 25000, JUST TO MAKE IT SEEM AS THOUGH IT SHOULD BE WORTH THE SPENT MONEY. THIS ALL WILL ULTIMATELY FALL ON THE CITY MANAGER, AND HE WILL BE THROWN UNDER THE BUS BY HEILMAN AND LAND FASTER THAN A HISSING SNAKE.........WERD.
Derek B. January 20, 2012 at 06:40 PM
I'm just sick and tired of hearing Steven Martin talk only smack. Mr. Negative. Ever since he was booted off the Council he gets his mug out to every event and criticizes every move the Council makes. Since he's run for office several times since being booted and has lost every time it should indicate to him that the majority of people are not in agreement with his positions. Oh, and Mr. Palmieri...in the article it states: "Councilman John Heilman said they needed to know what constituencies were being served by each event to make sure certain groups of people were not being underserved." How you get he doesn't want the public to know what the City is spending is beyond me.
jimmy palmieri January 20, 2012 at 07:08 PM
BEFORE YOU ADRESS SOMEONE THAT IS USING THEIR REAL NAME.....USE YOUR OWN FIRST!.........AND OF COURSE HEILMAN JOINED IN.....HE DOESN;T WANT ANYMORE GLARE ON HIM FOR WHAT HAS BEEN DONE ALL OF THESE YEARS....AND THAT INCLUDES LAND ALSO. WHEN A COUNCILMEMBER ASKS FOR SOMETHING SPECIFIC THAT IS WHAT THEY SHOULD GET. THIS REPORT WAS WEAK AT BEST, CONTRIVED AT WORST........OPEN YOUR EYES. AND IT WAS IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, HEILMAN WHO WANTED TO ELIMINATE SO MANY EVENTS FROM BEING INCLUDED IN THIS STUDY.
allegra January 20, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Obviously, the numbers are easily available and being withheld. Sam Baxter is very professional, competent and acts as he’s directed to. It seemed clear that he and his staff were directed to not include the costs & attendance numbers. Somebody said to me, last night, that Steve should not have blamed the missing numbers on staff. True. It was whoever directed staff that should take the blame. Staff were being set up to take the blame and being disrespected by that person...not by Steve.
jimmy palmieri January 20, 2012 at 07:29 PM
AMEN ALLLEGRA
Brian Hamilton January 20, 2012 at 08:00 PM
I agree, Allegra. The costs & attendance numbers are deliberately being withheld from the public. By whose directive? That's the key question. Most likely, it's whomever stands to benefit from keeping the truth concealed. Is the City spending money frivolously on under-attended, fluffy events we could do without? We must know.
Sheila Lightfoot January 20, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Ohhh... snap!!!!!
Rudolf Martin January 20, 2012 at 08:12 PM
if 'staff' were directed to withhold the numbers as allegra suggests (seems quite plausible) then it is up to 'staff' to point that out. don't blame the one person (steve martin) for being the only one calling a spade a spade. but it was odd to observe how city council seemingly did not expect the report they had asked for to ever materialize. they were more animated when scolding an ABC sitcom for not being PC.
Sheila Lightfoot January 20, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Derek B. I think you missed the point of Heilman's comment. I was in the audience and his full remarks came across very clearly - he was pre-defending any event that may be found to cost a lot while having very small attendance. He was pre-framing an argument for keeping those events he deems important... hint, hint... the ones that keep him in good stead with his diminishing inner circle and loyal benefactors.
Sheila Lightfoot January 20, 2012 at 09:45 PM
I very much agree with Steve Martin saying, “Welcome to what the rest of us have to go through dealing with staff,” pointing out that residents are often stymied trying to get information out of City Hall staff. If that’s what Derek B. says is Steve Martin just talking smack and being negative, I guess that means he’s fine with staff withholding information from us. But, I’d guess most of us would disagree with him. And Allegra’s assumptions are very astute… “It seemed clear that he and his staff were directed to not include the costs & attendance numbers.” As always, it can be difficult to discern who’s playing us. The bottom line is that we ARE being played. The good news is: more and more of us everyday are catching on and paying much greater attention.
Lynn Russell January 20, 2012 at 10:48 PM
How much time is necessary to recook the books? All city officials are expendable and very shortly elected ones that don't have their entire ship in order are likely to trip on the same banana peel. The city seems more attune to being run as some frivolous entertainment complex than one dedicated to the serious issues of life that individuals with a true calling for public service earnestly pursue.
joninla January 21, 2012 at 01:45 AM
You've got it right Allegra. What kind of story is this. If the City Council's Staff is unable to perform their jobs and provide what is requested, then what we have here is a story about a City Council that is totally inept at managing the employees they have hired. Thus, I see one more reason (standing on it own) to oust the City Council. They can't even manage their own staff. (Of course I know this is really the dog and pony show the Council regularly puts on. This is just a new scene in there existing repertoire of performances.)
joninla January 21, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Again - in agreement. But I am really wondering how much the City Manager is using the Council. The professional financial operations are so sophisticated that most of the Council does not have the capacity to really understand that type of financing. (Abbe Land understands the Bond Market? I heard she was OK as a waitress, but that does not make a Bond Market Savant of anyone)
joninla January 21, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Funny too how some things take so long to get done, but other things, such as a revision of a $41 design project for Plummer Park, is done in less than a week and a trained, licensed architect can re-engineer a parking structure with the load baring strength requirements so massive, in one month? Ground soil studies for the foundation to ensure no collapse alone takes months and months.
Don Jones January 22, 2012 at 07:16 PM
City Manager Paul Arevalo carrying Heilman's water, again. Nothing new. And that's why he's paid the big bucks.
Brian Hamilton January 22, 2012 at 09:13 PM
@Don: That reminds me of the Upton Sinclair quote: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
joninla January 23, 2012 at 02:48 AM
to Brian - I love the quote and your using it at just the right moment!
Sheila Lightfoot January 23, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Many commenters on recent articles and blogs have focused on the corrupt nature of an entrenched City Hall “process.” If you’d like to dive into the weeds of how the City’s corrupt process is managed, I’d recommend reading 10.D. on the Historic Preservation Commission’s meeting agenda tonight (Monday, Jan 23). Go to http://www.weho.org/index.aspx?page=878 - and click on 10.D. Review of City Projects. You’ll find a transcript and minutes of the 2 Historic Preservation Commission meetings in which the Park Plan, in general, and the historic buildings in the Park, specifically, were allowed virtually “no” critical consideration by the Commission. As you’ll see, the Commission was not only limited in the scope of their input, but the EIR presented facts in a way that were overwhelmingly biased toward a pre-determined outcome for the Plummer Park design desired by City staff and Council. It clearly exposes the shameful maneuvering that has been used to thwart any community opposition to a plan for Plummer Park that virtually everyone hates. This shows what kind of input was actually allowed in all those meetings in which they like to boast the community had a voice. For those of you without the stomach for reading endless details, suffice it to say… it demonstrates how the process is rigged. It is a perfect example of “business as usual” at City Hall… they pre-determine what they want and steer the entire process toward their desired outcome.
joninla January 24, 2012 at 12:36 AM
In case anyone does not know or has forgotten, the Historic Preservation Commissions (just like the planning commissions) is a board of 7, one per each Council Members absolute sole discretion to appoint, the remaining 2 ("at large") are chosen by majority vote of the same 5 Council Member voting. Hardly a Historic Preservation Board with an agenda to do anything that would go against the wishes of the Council to destroy whatever historic location they feel like. From the official (.org) West Hollywood Website: The Historic Preservation Commission (formerly Cultural Heritage Commission) was created on November 6, 1989 and consists of five (5) members appointed directly by a Councilmember, and two (2) members appointed by the Council as a whole (at-large). see for yourselves: http://www.weho.org/index.aspx?page=226 (thanks Sheila for not stopping your efforts to bring the many problems together into the big issues/problems with our City
joninla January 24, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Sheila - I think 10c also is significant. It confirms that the Subcommittees the Council or Commissions create to address concerns that arise from the public's voice is is now way any kind of decision making body that would required changing any plans. It's just an advisory conclusion that need not be implemented. from 10c. - second to last sentence at the end. "The subcommittee report will be considered advisory and its recommendations are subject to action by the full Commission." "ADVISORY" only
joninla January 24, 2012 at 01:36 AM
The "disclaimer" preceeding your link is also troublesome in general and going back to the election reform issue, another reason to not have an Election with information opposing candiates positions being provided 'for the beneit of the public' by the weho.org offical website. http://www.weho.org/index.aspx?page=237
Shawn Thompson January 24, 2012 at 08:57 AM
http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2011/09/west_hollywood_library_demolished.php

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