So the public body known as the Coliseum Commission made a move this week that surprised a lot of people: It gave the green light to raves at taxpayer-run venues including the Los Angeles Coliseum and the Sports Arena.
Sneaky? Its agenda, required by state law to be posted 72 hours ahead of a commission meeting, didn't state that the body would take a vote on allowing raves or not. The agenda item in question simply reads, “Electronic Dance Music Events Report.” A title above the items notes that “possible action” could be taken for anything listed below.
That's it. The vote caught some folks by surprise, and at least one legal expert questioned whether it would stand a court challenge.
The spirit of state law is this: You're supposed be given some warning when your public officials are going to act. You have the right to know in advance, and you have the right to be there.
Commission member Rick Caruso, developer of the Grove shopping center and a prospective mayoral candidate, told the Los Angeles Times he was surprised by Wednesday's vote, particularly because he said he was led to believe the commission would hold off until he could attend. (He said he was at a family function Wednesday).
Only 5 of the 9 commissioners — the bare minimum — were present for the vote: Three of the commissioners who hail from the county Board of Supervisors were actually at a closed-door “executive session” meeting that day and couldn't attend the commission pow-wow.
“It's a very close question,” he told the Weekly. “There's one school of thought that says if you make the notice very general, you're free to act. But many times if not most of the time a report … is understood to be just that: That it will be an informational discussion.”
“I don't know that a court would find a clear violation here, but I can understand why people would be concerned,” Francke said.
The task force's report, ordered in the wake of the ecstasy-fueled death of a 15-year-old who attended a Coliseum party in June, came up with pretty much the same recommendations (limiting parties to the 18-and-up crowd, having medical personnel on-hand) that the commission already received by a law firm in late summer.
City Councilman Bernard Parks, who is on the commission, defended the unanimous vote to green light raves after a temporary cap was put on the events.
“We eliminated the moratorium on the electronic events' and we basically told Coliseum management to follow the dictates of 11 principles of the [original] Miller report,” he told the Weekly.
(Parks calls them electronic dance music concerts and says raves are by definition illicit, late-night drug parties).
Despite the commission agenda's vague language, Parks said it clearly indicated the body would weigh the task force's recommendations.
“Like any form of democracy, if I don't show up, I can't cry about what got passed,” he said.
Some police and elected officials expressed concern about the level of drug activity and chaos at June's Electric Daisy Carnival, attended by 15-year-old Sasha Rodriguez, who later died.
The commission made headlines by putting a fictitious cap on the events (parties with contracts in place were allowed to go forward, and not a one was canceled) and vowing to hold promoters' feet to the fire in order to clean them up.
In the end, however, the amount of money these things rake in for the city-county-state run Coliseum and Sports Arena was a major factor in allowing the parties to go on.
Parks said the parties happen, in part, “for the financial benefit” of the public and noted that “there are few events that can fill up a 100,000-seat venue” like the Coliseum.
“It's very unfortunate that a 15-year-old passed away, but … we cannot substitute ourselves as the parents of every one of these children,” Parks said. “There are going to be people there on drugs, there are going to be people who bring drugs.”
“When I was at the police department,” said the councilman, a onetime LAPD chief, “people were saying the same identical things about groups like Pink Floyd and Rolling Stones. They smoke drugs in public and in front of people. It's been going on at concerts since there were concerts.”
“You're promoting a venue where people come and a high percentage of them come for the music and leave unscathed.”