PARKS PLACE-What a weekend! NASCAR ... football ... time with the grand kids...
Then, my phone started ringing.
Over the blare of the TV and the type of noise that only my two granddaughters can create, I was barely able to make out what the caller was trying to tell me. It was something about some LA Times story about somebody who's become a diminished figure in the view of both critics and some admirers.
Upon hearing that, I cringed with fear. Had somebody finally written a story about how David Zahniser lost his mojo and was actually a much better reporter when he was with the LA Weekly? Poor David.
I must get him on the phone! We've got to get to the bottom of this!
As I tried to rush to David's aid, the caller finally made me understand. The story wasn't about David. It was about me. Ouch! It seems that the Times has discovered what my declining eye sight, bad back and, occasionally, my bladder have already told me: I'M NOT AS GOOD AS I ONCE WAS.
To that I say, "DUH". I'm 70!
The Times even pinpointed when I lost my "mojo". According to them, it was some time between the 2008 Supervisor's Race and the redistricting process. They're wrong on both counts. I've never lost it!
What is not appreciated, is that as time moves forward (1) more skills are accumulated, (2) broader experiences are gained and (3) you learn to be effective in a variety of ways.
Titles, by themselves, do not create influence. It's the knowledge, awareness, and ability to understand complex issues and articulate common sense positions to your audience that's influence!!!
As I read on, the story got stranger and stranger. While, admittedly, I'm not as good as I once was (but who is?). It seems the Times should've sought comments from people who are at least as good as I am now. They didn't. Case in point: Dennis Zine. They dusted off the former councilmember from the Third District, who has had a less than remarkable career, to weigh in on how "vindictive" I am.
Some time ago, Dennis compared me to a mass murderer. I haven't killed anyone so, I guess he can be viewed as a credible source.
And, I'm sure my non-endorsement of him in his last race which he eventually lost, has nothing to do with his current view of me.
Good 'ole Dennis, who never commented on my work ethic or achievements says, I should get along with people better. Maybe he's right. I guess I could reach out to special interests, cut a couple of questionable deals, get investigated on ethical or criminal charges and become a labor darling! But after some consideration, I've determined the membership fees and dues are too high. And the legal fees will kill you, especially with the way union favorites have routinely been hauled off to jail.
Since my election in 2003, two local council members and a variety of governmental officials throughout the state - all union sweethearts--have been indicted (Martin Ludlow, Ron Calderon, Richard Alarcon, Leland Yee, Roderick Wright). I could make the case that over the last 11 years I've worked more closely with criminals than I did at my old gig!
It's no surprise that a study by the University of Illinois identified the City of Los Angeles and the State of California as the second leading group of ethically-challenged government officials in the country. Chicago is number one.
I could reach out to serve some of my colleagues but I have chosen to concentrate on my constituents' needs that I have served for 12 years in elected office and have supported me throughout my almost 50-year city career.
With only nine months left in office, time is of the essence to finish projects the community is expecting and programs that the community have come to expect. There is no time to waste!!
So, I guess I'll just continue to be me. I mean, it's worked before, right? That Chief guy... That was me. Crime down, officer accountability programs, Cold Case Unit; pretty good... Budget Hawk, hey, that's me too! I remember now. I helped keep the city from going bankrupt! And, I did so without ever changing my act.
Not that long ago, the LA Times counted on this diminishing political figure with no bedside manner to help them win a Brown Act lawsuit against the Coliseum Commission. I broke from a group of commissioners hellbent on giving the Coliseum to the always-opportunistic folks at USC to provide a declaration that was pivotal in proving that the lease negotiations were illegally kept out of public view. I guess the Times sees this as an instance of "What Have You Done for Me Lately?" featuring Emily Alpert Reyes-- not Janet Jackson-- singing lead. For future reference, I prefer Janet's version.
I kept reading about all the things I've "lost". I want to be the first to let you know, I have not lost anything. I made a personal decision to not tie my vote for the council presidency to future committee assignments. I didn't, and, therefore, I surrendered the committee. I've long held the belief that it's the Councilmember who makes the committee; not the other way around. Besides, in 2011, I could see the path this council was headed and thought it best to redouble my efforts to seek transparency and maintain objectivity and independence.
Now, the fireworks show? Did the LA Times miss the fact that Council District 8 hosted a successful fireworks show at Van Ness Park on July 4th that several thousand community members attended? I chose to create a new venue after 11 years at the Coliseum, once it became clear that there was no limit to the depth that Councilmember Curren Price would sink to lay claim to an event that he had nothing to do with...USC scraped the bottom of the barrel as well, once again displaying artistry in being able to dictate which minority elected officials they'll tolerate. It's a true talent.
The most disingenuous part of the article was that it didn't give an honest assessment to the "Catch 22" proposal that I introduced more than a year ago. In short, it's a proposal that asks the city to evaluate what money it can save internally before it considers taxing you, the taxpayer. It sounds like something we should consider, no matter who's presenting it.
I came up with the concept, got my motion approved by council, directed the information to the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), discussed it with the 2020 Commission, and requested the Budget and Finance Committee to schedule the motion for a hearing. So, I've done my part. And, just because the folks at Budget and Finance Committee are ignoring it, doesn't give the LA Times an excuse to ignore it as well.
Lastly, I will say that at 70, with nine months left in office, I will continue to be a force by asking the tough questions, having courage to do the right thing for the right reason, voting my conscience and always putting public service above self service.
But, I should not be the only councilmember people count on to question the status quo. I hope before I leave office there will be others that make a personal decision to turn in their "herd" card and join me in the so-called "wilderness" or create their own "wilderness." It is so much more rewarding to swim upstream, chart your own course and make a difference than to swim downstream and be just one of many in the same school of fish being directed by some clueless current.
Until that role is filled or until I leave --whichever comes first-- I will continue what I'm doing. And, I won't temper my act. It's not like I'm auditioning to host "The Tonight Show." I am trying to provide public service to people in the city who need it the most. No smoke, no mirrors... just service.
The problem is, other than Controller Ron Galperin, there appears to be no one willing to assume the mantle.
For all intent and purposes, term limits can allow a short timer's attitude to creep in, but let me assure you that this will not be the case in the 8th District. I have every intention to continue practicing my values and principles and continue to accomplish my goals until my last day in office, June 30, 2015.
(Bernard Parks is Los Angeles Councilman for the 8th Council District. He is also a former Los Angeles Police Chief. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Vol 12 Issue 79
Pub: Sep 30, 2014