Category Archives: Los Angeles Politics

The First “Free Pass” of Campaign 2005 – Bernie Parks!

There seems to be a tradition now amongst the press to give any potential candidate one “free pass” at the beginning of a campaign season. That is, a nice, safe, polite feature that allows the candidate one shot at some halfway decent press before the onslaught starts (or doesn’t start, depending on who it is).
Last week there was this article in the LA Weekly profiling former Police Chief, and current City Councilman Bernie Parks and his potential bid for Mayor of Los Angeles against an increasingly troubled Mayor Hahn.
The piece is well researched in terms of giving us a picture of the daily political life of Councilman Parks, and it certainly brings up some points in his favor. But like any political prospectus this early in the game, its emphasis on some glittering generalities only fuels the false hopes of anyone backing someone like Parks for Mayor, and glosses over some fairly large hurdles in the way of Parks becoming anything but Councilman-for-Life in his safe Council seat.
Many people make note of the fact that in his first run for Council, he raised a lot of money ($500,000) and did well enough in the primary that no runoff was necessary for him that year. That’s all well and good until you look at the field – it was Recently Kicked Off the Force Bernie Parks (with the all powerful “name ID” people covet these days) vs. four complete unknowns, with a combined budget equaling what most people spend on lunch at the taco stand for a month. In other words, it was a cakewalk for Parks, who had the overall anger (is that too strong a word?) by people in his district over his firing by Hahn not too long before the election.
Thus, the Parks Prospectus fails one test – a battle-tested political campaign operation. Whenever you start reading about Some Bigwig Politico making his (or her) next Big Move Up, you have to realize that in most cases, people who’ve served in one particular office for a long period of time usually don’t have to do much to get elected, especially if they represent an area of cohesive political thought. Parks hasn’t served in his current office a long time, but it’s a bit of a stretch to think that he has to do too much to keep his job – he certainly didn’t have to do much to get it in the first place.
Up against an experienced campaigner like Mayor Hahn (who has counted master political strategist Kam Kuwata of Venice as one of his top advisors in past races), and other people who’ve built real political operations over the years, it’s hard to see how Councilman Parks can be expected to do well. Even with a base in the African American community (which is not guaranteed to go with him 100% they way they did for others in the past), he will still be pressed to run a hard fought, bitter, and personal campaign. Can Parks stand the heat? That remains to be seen.
However, there’s a bigger elephant in the living room this article (and many pundits) fail to discuss or even acknowledge when discussing the prospects of a Parks candidacy – the fact that in the one major, citywide, executive job he had, Parks was a failure – his tenure as Police Chief of Los Angeles. There’s no mention of it in the Weekly article, and discussion of the 2005 Mayor’s race seems to ignore it altogether.
This I find fascinating. Parks received a vote of no-confidence and a recommendation to remove him as Chief by the Police Commission and the City Council. They didn’t do this out of some racist conspiracy theory some would have us believe – they did it because frankly, he was a lousy Chief.
Under his watch murders went up, morale on the force went down, and confidence by Los Angeles residents in the ability of the Chief to effectively run the department was shattered by his zigzags as Chief. TO think that somehow he could run for a citywide office and not have any of this come up is ludicrous. It’s as crazy as thinking that President Bush could run for re-election and not speak one word about anything he’d done as President these past four years. (We know that won’t happen, right?)
One only has to look at the work current Chief William Bratton has done in the short time he has been on the job to see what a contrast in management style and accomplishments the department had under Parks vs. what we have today. Crime is down, police morale is up, and the public has a renewed sense of confidence in the management of the department.
Chief Bratton is not perfect, nor is anyone. However, there wouldn’t be this dramatic a shift in fortunes at the LAPD had Parks’ work there been as stellar as he’d have us believe. That is if he even talks about it – although it’s hard to conceive of how many  11 x 17 brochures could talk about Parks’ executive leadership and fill more than a few inches of copy between them.
I’ll be taking a look at the prospectuses (prospectii??) of Sen. Richard Alarcon and other declared candidates as they come out of the woodwork with a similar critical look at their pros and cons.
However, I can say this much – if I’m was a betting man I’d holding back on putting any of those $500 chips on anyone just yet – and I would not put any on Councilman Parks until I saw something that could make a significant change in the realpolitik landscape he faces in 2005.
PS: Tomorrow will mark my official one-year anniversary living in Venice Beach. Strange, it still feels like I just got here….
UPDATE: Mr. Parks now has a campaign website at – take a look at it and see where you might wanna bet your $50 chips on this race.
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at

Solidarity and Generic Brand Canned Russian Mackerel

One thing you discover very quickly, especially in my part of town, is that while it is all well and good to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the struggle at the Big Three Grocery Store Chains it makes shopping for groceries a real hassle.
Today I was driving down Lincoln in Santa Monica and thought I’d swing by and honk the ol’ horn to show support for La Revolucion, and who should beat me to the punch but Rev. Jesse Jackson – giving a speech in the parking lot no less. So I honked anyway and flashed the “V for Victory” sign and drove off, happy to help, but trying to figure out where the best place to buy some Necessary Items would be on Sunday.
I’m “fortunate” to live within 5 minutes or less from TWO Von’s, TWO Albertsons, and TWO Ralph’s Groceries. Thus being the bargain shopper that I am if I plan it right I can get my favorite stuff any time I want, even at 2 am if I suddenly have the urge to get something. Why I’d want something at 2am is beyond me but you know what I mean.
Now, however, I’m not patronizing these stores and I have to really think ahead if I want to have something to eat besides tacos from the taco truck around the corner.
So far I’ve bought some things at Trader Joe’s, ventured into a pricey Gelson’s and bought a few things there, and bought the rest at the corner store by my house – which drives my price conscious (aka cheap) sensibilities to no end – but at least they have Goya products.
My favorite store to buy things in now has to be the 99 cent store on Lincoln. I’d only been in this store a coupel of times, usually to buy paper products, but when I realized that for some things, especially canned items their stuff couldn’t be too bad, I thought I’d try shopping for some items. Boy was it an eye opener.
For buying basic items like canned goods, they’re pretty cheap. But what was most interesting was all the weird brands you never see in “mainstream” or even “specialty” grocery stores. Looking for off-name brands of cookies? It’s there. South American labeled versions of American candy bars? It’s there!
Looking for squeeze bottles of Eazee Cheez ? They got it – and it’s cheap! Now, I’d be a little concerned about buying a plastic bottle of neon-orange cheese that’s not even refrigerated, much less spelled right, but if you’ve got a party coming up it’s a steal. Just put out the Easy Cheese from Von’s out first , then after the first round of drinks make the switch. Your guests won’t know the difference!
And when it comes to canned meats…they have the best selection in town. Treet (no SPAM), Mexican Imitation Crab, Deviled Ham in the big can, and my favorite: Generic branded Russian Canned Mackerel!
I never knew that one could get genuine generic branded stuff from Russian, much less get stuff with the Authentic Cyrillic script on it as well. I asked one of the workers if they sold much of this stuff and they said it’d been sitting there “for some time.” What that meant, I didn’t wanna know but I almost bought a can (hey it was cheap!) just to try it out. Then I didn’t.
That’s the thing that appealed to me most about this store though – you could get out of there and hardly pay anything at all. I bought a ton of canned beans, many varieties, to make chili with, pasta, milk, and some other assorted goods, and I spent less than $10! Who cared if some of the stuff had weird names, or if the candy bar was from South America? It’s cheap!
So the 99 cent store has a new loyal customer, although you wont’ see me buying any of that canned mackerel anytime soon.
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at

And you think the recall for GOVERNOR is bad…

Most people outside of LA County don’t realize what kind of political structure we have here. Los Angeles the city of course is the largest city, so large that some outsiders don’t realize that their letter to Uncle Bob in Van Nuys or Granada Hills or their crazy friend Mr. Sch�dlemann in Venice is actually being sent to someone living in Los Angeles.
There are a few other cities within Los Angeles County that have substantial populations (Torrance, Redondo/Hermosa/Manhattan Beaches, Long Beach, etc.) The South Bay communities are all nice places to live, and have great beaches and are generally rather quiet, and affluent, or at least doing OK.
But also found spread across the county are countless little burgs, such as Carson, Hawaiian Gardens, South Gate, Lynwood, Bell Gardens, El Monte, Buena Park, and more that most people aren’t aware of. They’re usually not very well off, and the people living there often do not make a lot of money. Some do fine , but most are ignored by the media, as are their elected officials.
Just about all of these oddly sized little towns were formed through incorporation campaigns to keep these residents (and potentially more) out of the grasp of the public-owned Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Most of these smaller towns became bedroom communities for middle and working class people, and for the most part were quiet towns without a lot going on except regular folks raising families and working hard.
Things have changed, to say the least. Nowadays if you want to find the most corrupt, most despicable, and most flagrant abuses of power, as well as the total disenfranchisement (that’s a word, yes?) �of taxpaying residents and citizens, you need look no farther than some of these little towns.
Carson had its mayor on the run for months on tax evasion charges, only recently having been extradited from the Philippines. South Gate, one of the poorest and lousiest places to live in LA County, was a dictatorship under the thumb of Albert Robles and his machine which looted the city treasury.
The mountain of material unearthed by what little LA Times reporting was done is just the tip of the iceberg as far as I’m concerned. Meanwhile the people who can least afford it pay for the personal enrichment of a pack of weasels who were finally ousted earlier this year.
Lynwood is in the throes of a recall campaign all its own. The town, with a per-capita income of only $9500 per year, has councilmembers who are making in excess of $100,000 per year off the city.
The leaders say they “earn every penny.” As far as I’m concerned the only way you earn $100,000 a year as a councilmember in a place like Lynwood is to either a) be a corrupt liar or b) legitimately earn the money for not only recruiting businesses to locate to Lynwood but also have a guaranteed job for every able-bodied and able-minded individual in Lynwood. Guess which route the councilmembers took?
Are we righteously indignant yet? No? Oh well then read the (kind of) fiery righteous editorial from the Los Angeles Times, in its role of Guardian of the Public Interest and Good People Who Know What’s Best. They made the usual press call about how evil politics is and how we need a good watchdog to guard against this kind of corruption both here in River City and in Sacramento and Washington.
Here’s where we get unplugged, gang. Watch, and learn why the above mentioned editorial is bogus at best and disingenuous at worst (or perhaps those are the same thing?)….
These little corrupt burgs are corrupt for a variety of reasons, some based on the fact that you’ve had a tremendous demographic shift in these towns towards large populations of people who can’t vote, as well as the fact that the jobs that used to fuel the economies of these areas have been exported elsewhere, leaving nothing in its place. Combine that with the fact that it does not take a lot of votes to get elected in most of these places means that you have a localized version of our 130+ candidate governor’s race – but with very tangible, and very bad results.
What is galling about the Times editorial though is that it makes the pompous assumption that the press has been doing its job in these cases, and that some how the press is the Pure and Righteous Voice of Reason in the “sin” that is politics. Bullshit. There’s no other way to say it.
Fact is that over the years the little newspapers that covered these issues have been wiped out by corporate media such as the LA Times, Clear Channel, and other corporate chain owned print and broadcast media. They either were put out of business or have been homogenized into nothing more than ad-laden rags which make money off classifieds and
Fact also is that it’s not “profitable” on a corporate scale to cover anything but scandal or Bennifer Jlo Affleck or what the parent network is peddling in prime time. �That’s why you see so many “local” broadcasts featuring what’s being said or done on “Friends”, “Survivor,” or whatever prime time product the networks is promoting. Fact is, the media does not cover these issues, does not want to, and does not care to.
Fact also also also is that candidates for office spend money to talk about their plans for running for office because no one covers debates or forums where they might be challenged , or have bullshit called on their various claims or statements.
No one even covers Sacramento, our state capital(!) on a regular basis anymore – in particular broadcast media outlets – so it’s almost insane to expect them to cover anything local to home other than car chases or celebrity restaurant sightings.
NONE of the broadcast outlets in ANY major media markets even maintain a Sacramento bureau anymore – “too costly” – except when there’s a “budget crisis.” They NEVER cover WHY we got there or give any historical perspective on the situation, just the latest soundbite or simplistic reasoning courtesy of a cadre of partisan pundits who are reliable in their ability to get the “talking points of the day” out to a press who lives off “excitement” rather than “fair and balanced reporting.” (Oh wait Murdoch copyrighted that, didn’t he? Perhaps he and the RIAA will sue me this month…)
Where am I going with this?
Point is this: The press needs to get off its collective arse, and stop trying to rewrite old stories with new names. They need to get out there and INVESTIGATE what the heck is up with our political system. Do the work. Spend the money. Do their jobvs to find out the truth, not simply validate a pre-determined notion of what is “true.” Acknowledge their own bias and work around it, instead of denying it. And not just the potential “Woodward-esque” pieces but the so-called “boring” subjects (which aren’t “boring” at all.)
Subjects like the attempts to privatize your water supply. Yes you heard me , PRIVATIZE the water you need to live. The “wet dream” so to speak of right wing ideologues, but trust me, you do NOT want to live in a society where water is up for bid on the open market.
Check out the excellent reporting by Savannah Blackwell at the Bay Guardian to read more. (Yes, I often have issues with the Guardian’s coverage of San Francisco politics and their backing of certain politicians but when they do investigative journalism on public power and water privatization, they do it good.)
I digress. To summarize: the press can be as indignant as it wants to be about corruption in politics. But it cannot ignore its own complicity that has allowed our system at all levels to make people sick.
From the national level where the New York Times allowed a complete liar like Jason Blair to advance up the ladder, to the local deal-making corruption and blatant LIES at places like the Heart Corporation, to the wink, nod, and ignorance of the Los Angeles Times, there’s plenty of blame to go around. It’s time to shape up, kids, and do your jobs. You have the technology, the time and the money to get it right. Now do it.
To paraphrase a great line in “No Man’s Land” – to do nothing is taking sides.
And with Mikey Powell and the FCC voting to consolidate media power even more than it is, does it take a genius to figure out what side that is?
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at