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Political Food for Thought During Holiday Recess

By Steve Hymon, Times Staff Writer

December 21, 2005

The Los Angeles City Council adjourns for its holiday recess after today's meeting and won't be back serving "” if that's the right word "” the public until the second week of January.

In the holiday spirit, here are a few stocking stuffers from your city government.

Question: How long was Councilman Herb Wesson in office before saying something provocative?

Answer: About six minutes.

At his City Hall swearing in Nov. 29, Wesson told his new colleagues that statues aren't built to honor critics of government "” they're built to honor people who get things done.

Such as politicians.

Wesson, elected to replace Martin Ludlow, appeared to be making a point about the need for greater optimism at City Hall and his willingness to stand up to critics. But in fact, the world's airports, train stations, museums and parks are littered with statues of some of the world's most splenetic critics of governments and politicians.

These include Will Rogers, Mark Twain, Voltaire, Henry David Thoreau and Mohandas K. Gandhi.

"Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one," wrote Thomas Paine, a founding father, statues of whom can be found in the United States and Europe.

Of course, it's too early in Wesson's council tenure to determine if he's monument-worthy.

The good news: The city wouldn't have to buy a lot of marble or bronze. Wesson is the shortest of the 12 male council members, standing 5 feet 5 and weighing 146 pounds, he said.

Q: What will be Marvin Braude's legacy?

A: The 32-year member of the council died this month. He undoubtedly will remain best-known for helping protect large swaths of the Santa Monica Mountains and leading the city's ban on indoor smoking.

Braude was also a leader of the slow-growth movement in Los Angeles that tried to prevent the city from becoming more dense and vertical.

It's a perpetual battle and one still going. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has lately made it clear that his vision for Los Angeles is a city that can accommodate more people.

"This old concept that all of us are going to live in a three-bedroom home, you know, with 2,500 square feet, with a big frontyard and a big backyard "” well that's an old concept," the mayor said at his State of the Valley speech earlier this month.

In Los Angeles, those are the kinds of words that are usually a prelude to someone throwing a punch "” or, to the more peaceful, writing an angry letter to the editor.

Braude, to his great credit, made it easier for residents to be involved in the planning process and have a say in what gets built and where. But what remains clear is that even as the council and Braude in the 1980s tried to slow growth, the city's population continued its upward climb.

Here are the census numbers:

1960: 2,479,015

1970: 2,811,801

1980: 2,968,579

1990: 3,485,398

2000: 3,694,820

2003: 3,819,951

Q: Why might it be a good time to buy a cupcake and stick a candle in it?

A: It was one year ago that city planning chief Con Howe announced his retirement. The city is still looking for a replacement.

Howe stayed on the job until September, and an interim chief is in place while the mayor's office conducts a search.

Then-Mayor James K. Hahn began a hunt last March "” more than two months after Howe's announcement "” but it was abandoned after he lost the election in May. A Villaraigosa spokesman that a new planning chief probably will be in place in January or February.

The city is also hoping by then to hire a new transportation chief. The last one resigned in August.

By the way, Webster's defines the word urgency as "need for action."

Q: Will the council ever curtail ceremonial presentations?

A: Not this year.

In October, Councilmen Jack Weiss and Greig Smith moved to curtail official proclamations that chew up minutes at council meetings.

When the proclamations take an eternity, residents who have business with the city also have to wait an eternity. In the meantime, the council sometimes loses quorum "” as happened recently "” and has to prematurely end meetings.

Some council members "” most vocally, Tom LaBonge "” have defended the presentations, saying they're a chance to publicly honor people who have done something for the city.

But the motion appears to have become wedged in politics.

It was a thinly veiled shot at Council President Alex Padilla, to be replaced Jan. 1 by Councilman Eric Garcetti. The president's chief job is to run meetings. As it happens, Padilla also chairs the Rules Committee, which must hear the motion. The presentation motion wasn't heard at the last two monthly committee meetings in November or December.

Weiss said: "All I can say is that I'm looking forward to the new council president's efforts to squeeze some efficiencies out of the council."

Padilla said he hadn't "heard from those two members about this being a top, top priority."

He added that he was discussing the matter with Garcetti "to see what ideas that he has about restructuring the order of presentations."

What does a presentation look like?

There are photos from 17 of Weiss' presentations on his city website at These include proclamations for Dave Winfield and Muhammad Ali and celebrating the Iranian new year.

Q: What is one of Dennis Zine's latest accomplishments?

A: Zine was recently elected president of the executives of the Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda, which officials believe likely makes him the first non-Jew to hold the job.

"The ironic part is that I'm a Lebanese Catholic," Zine said.

Zine has long been involved in senior issues, particularly since struggling to find care for his mother after she suffered a stroke in the early 1990s. "It was one rest home after another," he said. "The agony I went through with my mom is why I've made this commitment."

Zine pointed out that he grew up in the Fairfax district on the Westside and that he had many "Jewish friends and girlfriends."

He also said that one of his rabbi friends has said he has such strong ties to the Jewish community that perhaps he should even have a late-in-life bar mitzvah "” a ceremony that usually celebrates a 13-year-old boy's transition to manhood.

"I told him I'd do it," said Zine, who then mixed in another ceremony, circumcision. "I said, 'Just don't invite a mohel.' "

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times"


Typical of our no good Black elected leadersship and those who praise them. Herb Wesson truly believes that his constituency have no right and/or authority to petition, criticize, hold accountable, question, etc., a public servant. As reality would have it Herb Wesson must have lost touch with the essence of what it means to be a "public servant", meaning any taxpaying law abiding citizen has the right and the duty to express, petition, criticize, move to action, etc., etc., his or her elected representative.

What a nitwit, and premiere example of the truly dysfunctional in our community. Herb Wesson, being the nitwit that he is, more than likely would believe that the above article is to his credit.


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