Tue, Nov

From State Capitol to LA City Council: Pussies Galore


MAILANDER’S LA - Pub crawl last Thursday, and I hooked up with Rodger Jacobs for a third of it.  Jacobs has a tough life and he has been hardened by it.  On this day, he had already been on his own tour de suds earlier with Will Campbell and yet I found him sober as traffic court.  Both Campbell and I, I think, took some photos of Rodger's psoriasis-ravaged hands. 

I never know what I'm going to talk about with Jacobs but it ended up that we mostly spoke about pussies in local media. I have my own top pussy candidates in local media.  But who cares, because they don't rise nearly as high in local pussydom as the folks on LA’s City Council rise.

What is a "pussy," anyway? The word is all over the place of late--Pussy Riot, &c. I'm sure any random assemblage of definitions among a handful of people would make even Derrida go bananas.  But to me it has one specific connotation: it's a man (and it's always a man) who, when going on the record, dependably sides with the trim, well-paid man in the prim sport coat and the $100 tie, and who berates the chubby guy in the tee shirt.

So to me, an LA City Councilmember like Paul Krekorian is a pussy par excellence.  And maybe Councilmember Gil Cedillo is emerging as his heir apparent.

They both have the State Assembly in common--maybe that's it--maybe that's what's driving the ridiculous sense of entitlement and disdain for the democratic process these two are bringing to City Council of late.  In the Assembly, they weren't used to the kind of retail politics that City Council warrants.  They had experts on staff and met in a tightly-controlled legislative body far away from their constituents.

Of the fifteen members of City Council, I've been most amused by Krekorian since he arrived, especially since his ascent to Chair of the City's Budget and Finance Committee.  This is the same Paul Krekorian, after all, who told the Daily News's Rick Orlov that "[T]he problem I am having...is that we can't get any information on what bills to pay, to see what checks have been deposited, to see what we owe."

Hardly what you'd expect from the chair of the City's top financial committee.

Those statements were made regarding his own campaign's financial dealings with Kinde Durkee, the felonious Democratic financier and campaign treasurer to many local Democratic figures.  It hardly sounded in that sound bite that Krekorian was a master of budgetary details at all.  In fact, he was all too readily claiming that when it came to his own campaign, he was simply too easily swindled.

Looking for similar entertainment, I forced myself to watch the Public Works Commission confirmation "hearings" the other day, at which enough syrup was spilled to get an IHoP through a month of breakfast service.  And I wrote about these this week.  You can read all about the new heights of pussydom reached in Council at this jabbering session at which no single dissenting vote was cast and nothing at all happened in my column, "Kevin James, Public Works Commissioners Catch a Free Ride.

Jacobs and I didn't get much of this, even while I was knee-deep in local politics.  Even though we were talking about pussies in local media, I forgot to tell him, in fact, that I had recently seenKrekorian dress down some poor public comment guy, Arnold Sachs, for reminding the Council in a big land use deal that two of the key supporters of said deal were just then exiting their terms of office.

About the true scope of the deal itself, Krekorian had very little to say.

But regarding the ponderings of poor public comment guySachs, Krekorian unleashed, calling his remarks "silly" twice and persistently lying his way through a cringeworthy pandering to a persistently beleaguered and confused community, Sunland-Tujunga--a victim of downtown games yet again.

"Thank you, Mr. President," Krekorian rose to begin, after ordinary public citizen Sachs sputtered his 60 seconds' worth of ordinary concerns.  "I just feel compelled to respond to Mr. Sachs’s silly comment."

"This has been something that’s been exceptionally important to this community a lot longer than eleven years.  The community of Sunland-Tujunga has been fighting over the precious nature of this property for a wide variety of reasons for a very very long time.  And the work that people like Lloyd Hitt [applause] have put in to clearly document the history of this site and the historical significance of this site, not just to Sunland-Tujunga but to all of Los Angeles, and all of America frankly, is what really should be recognized and celebrated," Krekorian thundered.

Yes, Krekorian actually said in Chamber on June 21 that "all of America frankly" should stand tall as the City handed 27 1/4 acres of a 28 acre golf course over for development, and for the purpose of commemorating a site that the State of California had not-so-extraordinarily passed on in 1980 when it moved to preserve twelve other Japanese internment facilities, including two local ones.

"And I just want to thank everybody from this community, Krekorian continued, "who’s been fighting for so long and for so hard to preserve the important history of this site."

In truth, the notion that part of the site should be made historic, while discussed and dismissed for years, didn't come before the City until five scant months ago, when Alarcon saw an opportunity to help the developer along and used the historicity of the site to speed the plow.

"And I just want to recognize Mr. Alarcon too for this measure.  I think it’s an important step that we need to take. There have been a number of folks who have been participating today and trying to work out a sensible solution, and I think that it has been, and that it makes sense for us to move forward in the way that Mr. Reyes and Mr. Alarcon are going to be discussion."

Even after all that, Krekorian wasn't done with the hapless public citizen Sachs.

"But I think that it just really needs to be said in response to this kind of silliness.  This is generated by the community.  This community has been coming up with these ideas! This community has been documenting its history! And this community I think deserves the respect that I think that we should show it by making sure that its precious history is preserved!” [applause]

Even if Krekorian thought that a public citizen speaking about his concerns regarding the last minute actions of the old Council were "silly," new Councilmember Gil Cedillo didn't think the idea of last minute actions were silly at all. Cedillo last week moved to rescind last-minute Reyes expenditures earmarked for LA River rehabilitation and development.  He also decommissioned a field office in Lincoln Heights that had been operational since 1988 and especially tended to by Reyes and staff, without so much as first asking for a report.

But so pussified in fact (by my definition--see above) were the proceedings that Friday in the old Council that right after Krekorian unleashed his "silly" tubthumper in defense of preserving one acre of 28, with Council President Herb Wesson asking him to repeat the word "silly" for emphasis, outgoing Councilmembers Ed Reyes and Richard Alarcon moved even to amend to cut the preservation of one acre at the golf course down to three quarters of one. 

Alarcon's office had previously spoken of preserving ten acres with the community group.

Council then moved the final vote to the following Tuesday, when Council Chambers would be clear and nobody except the developer's attorney would be around to clap for what they were really achieving.

Meanwhile, Cedillo too, like Krekorian an Assembly alum, is having a hard time getting used to the extra scrutiny and retail politics that LA City Council brings to bear.

Three weeks into office, the local CBS affiliate was reminding the folks who still watch television that Cedillo's son Gil Cedillo, Jr. didn't have the kind of college degree that a cushy $100,000 a year post at the Central Basin Water District demanded.  Feds were interested too, last I read.

This is the kind of stuff I see, persistently, whenever I watch City Council video at home. If you had time to watch it, you'd probably start calling these people in $100 ties, for whom ordinary citizens with ordinary concerns are such nuisances, "pussies" too. Consistently, the guys who come before them making $100,000 or more are handled with kid gloves, the developers get their way all the time, and the chubs and schlubs in the tee-shirts are routinely dressed down, admonished as "silly" for expressing concerns that often become eerily similar to the concerns of investigators.

Worse, media generally let these $178K a year reps skate, deluded by young media reps--the City employs over 25 of these--into thinking that this kind of patronizing junk and developer-friendly sleight-of-hand is actually civic leadership.

After we were done drinking, I took some photos of Jacbos bandaged, psoriasis-ravaged hands, so that Jacobs could show them to others who may like to help him out. Jacobs doesn't do journalism anymore; I don't think he can hold a phone long enough to do it.  He's writing more fiction, something I wish I had more time to do myself of late.

The first month of Garcetti has been all payback and meretricious appointments, and Council and especially media have let the Mayor have his way.  Rookie Reserve Cop III Becca Doten, Alarcon's Chief of Staff, has been rewarded, for all her Democratic Party devotion to Alarcon and outcomes like the one with the golf course, with a plum job in the City's Homeland Security and Public Safety Office as Director of the Crisis Response Team.  Chief of Staff Ana Guerrero doesn't have a college degree.  Matt Szabo, who seems to think our river projects are a potential "economic furnace" (and nobody in Council thought that unusual in a Public Works Commissioner) and Kevin James, who scored so big with his timely, carefully-crafted endorsement of Garcetti, will bag $130,000 a year for their posts, even as elected official Krekorian bags $178,000.

And guys like Rodger Jacobs, who has done just as much for the City than any of them by monumentalizing its cultural life, will scrape along, and wonder how to pay for their next set of clean bandages.

(Joseph Mailander is a writer, an LA observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He is also the author of Days Change at Night: LA's Decade of Decline, 2003-2013. Mailander blogs here.)   








Vol 11 Issue 63

Pub: Aug 6, 2013