Sunday, August 14, 2011

It's No Better Now: Rivera's Prop 188 is Amended and Heading for a Monday Vote

On Wednesday the 10th of August, the City-County Council Committee of Rules and Public policy met.  One of their biggest topics to tackle was Proposal 188, which I discussed in my earlier blog.  While they did make some changes to the proposal, those changes amount to nothing. (You can find the minutes from the meeting and the amendments here.)

Councillor Angel Rivera
The only thing I see that really did get accomplished by the amendments is the end of the private lawn parking ban.  While this is positive, I am concerned by some comments made by Councillor Angel Rivera (R- At Large) that were noted in the minutes.  Rivera made the comment that this parking is already prohibited by those without a commercial parking permit and parking lines drawn. This makes me wonder if this starts getting enforced pretty heavily even if not included in the final version of 188.

Some things in the amended version of 188 actually got worse.  The original version of the bill said ticket resellers were limited to using hand-held signage.  The amended version of the proposal defines the signage used by resellers cannot be greater than 10" x 10".  If you think about the size of a standard piece of 8.5" x 11" copy paper, I'm sure you can see the resellers won't be able to have much visible signage at all.

And those resellers are no longer limited to reselling tickets for only the face value.  Nope, now they can add 15% to the amount of those tickets to recoup the cost of Ticketmaster or other fees.  In actuality, the 15% isn't even enough to recoup the fees in most cases.  I just took a peek at tickets for the 8/22 Britney Spears show at Conseco Fieldhouse.  The $59.50 tickets have a $12 Ticketmaster convenience fee, or just over 20%.  C'mon, Councillor...if you're going to say the amendment is to cover fees, then write the amendment without a generic percentage included, just say that the amount cannot be more than the total face value + fees.

This amendment is nothing but a political move to make it sound like they aren't being so strict.  It is a way for Rivera and other 188 supporters to make comments to the media suggesting that 188 no longer keeps resellers from marking up the price of their tickets.  We see through your political sham, Councillor.

The most horrendous thing that 188 does is give sweeping, undefined powers to the Department of Code Enforcement.  All the "Clean Zones" and "Event Zones" that are created in Prop 188 are controlled, with little restriction, by the DCE.  The DCE can create these zones in any size and shape they deem necessary.  While I agree that each event is unique, such uncontrolled power is uncalled for.  If the Council believes that such zones are really needed (a decision I would question, as I have seen no indication during prior events that I believe require such a mandate), then the DCE should be limited by 188 about the size and scope of the zones.  The only limitation I see is that the DCE must give seven days notice and that's hardly a limitation at all.

DCE Director Rick Powers
Rick Powers, Director of the Department of Code Enforcement, spoke at the committee meeting Wednesday.  He gave a "brief powerpoint presentation" (which is mysteriously missing from the minutes, despite the fact that a 25-page power point presentation given that night on another pair of proposals is there in its entirety).  He then went on to state what he felt were the benefits of 188. A couple of his points that I have particular issue with:

-->"Makes it easier for neighborhoods to host events." - While this may be true for smaller neighborhoods hosting smaller events, there is simply no guarantee this is the case.

-->"Reduces government oversight and regulation." - This is simply not true.  Just because you rearrange the necessary steps to hold or be involved in an event does not mean you reduce oversight or regulation.  I would suggest that 188 does the opposite through the addition of new rules about ticket reselling, vending, signage, and near unlimited authority given to the DCE to control clean zones and event zones.

-->"Negates the overwhelming bureaucracy that existing laws across a broad spectrum require that would legally allow events to take place, or worse, expressly prohibit." - Where is the problem you're talking about?  This is an enormous issue with Prop 188...Why does it need to exist to begin with?  We've had tons of events in the past, and I see no evidence that the "problems" 188 is trying to solve even exist.  The councillors have repeated this "isn't a Super Bowl ordinance", but I am forced to call B.S. The only benefactor I see from 188 is the NFL and similar groups.  We, the citizens, lose out in the meantime to a runaway city government trying to protect us from problems that do not exist.

I think I'm starting to see, though, why Prop 188 hands so much authority over to the DCE.  In the minutes from Wednesday's committee meeting, 188 sponsor Councilor Rivera thanked the DCE for "helping him draft this amendment and listening to the concerns of Councillors and citizens."  I find it troublesome that legislation that gives the DCE broad sweeping powers be written in part by that very organization.  It also makes me wonder how involved the DCE was in suggesting the need for the proposal to begin with, as well as with the original writing of the proposal.  The conflict of interest here is incredibly large.

The Agenda for the City-County Council shows that Proposal 188 is up for a vote this Monday night, August 15th.  The meeting is scheduled to start at 7:00.  Look for Prop 188 and other proposals on the aganda to possibly be rushed through so more time is available for the introduction of the budget.  I hope they do the smart thing and lay 188 aside for discussion at a future meeting when there aren't so many big issues on the table that may cause the Council to rush through something this important.  On the other hand, that's probably exactly what they want.

Since my original blog on this topic, I have shared a number of texts and voice mails with its sponsor, Councillor Angel Rivera.  He has suggested these amendments somehow address the concerns of that posting, but I fail to see how.  He has been very nice and welcomed the discussion with me about 188.  I was hoping to have that discussion with him before posting this today, but the phone-tag game has gotten in the way.  I still believe we will make contact and discuss this issue.  When this occurs, I will post on it.

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