Saturday, June 05, 2004

Reagan Dead

An era of American and world history ended today with the passing of former President Ronald Reagan.

The first time I ever met Reagan was in 1965 when I was still a high school student. I had volunteered at the Spencer-Roberts Public Relations firm, then the powerhouse political firm in California, after Reagan had formed an exploratory committee while he considered running to become the governor of California.

From that very first meeting and during each of the times I had the honor of either being a guest in his home or to otherwise meet him, the one thing that stood out most was his belief and confidence in the American people. No matter what your political opinion of him was or is, if you ever had the pleasure to meet him, you could not doubt the sincerity of his beliefs or his passion for this country.

All You Need To Know About The "LA" Times

One of the great civic benefactors of Los Angeles died yesterday, but you would never know it by reading the news sections of the Chicago, I mean, LA Times. Richard D. Colburn was the force behind and the major financial supporter of the Colburn School of Performing Arts on Bunker Hill and the major supporter of the soon to be built $80 million expansion designed to give Los Angeles a school equal to New York's Juilliard.

But Colburn's extensive obituary was buried on page ten of the 'B' section rather than being on the front page as the story would have been if he had lived in Chicago - or any other city in with a locally owned and operated newspaper. To do this, though, would have required bumping off urgently breaking front page stories such as one about a horse in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

I would like to say I was surprised by this, but this is the same out-of-town team that did not feel that even Ira Yellin's passing was worthy of coverage in the regular news section.

Unfortunately, this is the continuing price this city has to pay for a paper owned by absentee landlords and edited and published by outsiders for whom LA is just another temporary pit stop in their careers.

The Last Of Perino's

In today's LAT, Bob Pool covers the impending demolition of the historic Wilshire eatery, Perino's - the site of so much of Los Angeles's social and political history. He also details the efforts by the developers to save many of the Paul Williams designed building's architectural details for re-use both on and off-site.

What is not discussed is that in many other cities - San Diego and San Francisco to name just two - buildings of historic value are far more often moved to new locations - including structures that are far larger and more difficult to move such as large, unreinforced brick warehouses.

There precedents demonstrate that there is no reason why an elegant structure of Perino's compact size can not be moved to another commercial site before its scheduled August demolition.

What would, however, would make this far easier to do is if Los Angeles had a revolving trust to buy, move and restore historic structures - like many other cities do. The buildings are then protected with easements and re-sold, with the funds then used to buy, move and restore another building.

I can think of few things that would have a more beneficial impact on the quality of life in LA than the establishment of this kind of civic institution.

Does anyone know the phone number of the Getty Trust? Or Eli Broad?

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Forget ChinaTown, Jake - It's El Pueblo We Have To Worry About!

Two events have finally pushed me over the edge into the living hell that is blogdom. FIrst, both the process and the end result of the Grand Avenue competition for redeveloping Bunker Hill around Disney Hall, which I will delve into later.

Second, was Laura Chick's audit (and she is our watchdog of a city controller) of El Pueblo, which 'runs' Olvera Street and the historic buildings for the city around the Plaza. The initial story of the audit was followed by a second story in this week's Downtown News about just fired employees allegedly breaking into the El Pueblo offices and shredding files and possibly even destroying computer hard drives. And there is a reason why I am interested in 'Pueblo-gate'.

When I wanted to do an art show in one of the vacant buildings several years ago, I tried to find out who was in charge. And it only took one day to discover that there were large numbers of city employees being paid to do ... absolutely... nothing... and that many of them were not even bothering to show up at their non-existent jobs while they worked their real jobs.

But when I went with that information (along with two volunteers willing to go on record) to the council office, to the Mayor's office and to the press - I could not get even one person to listen to what was going on - much less do anything about it. It just seemed to be accepted that this type of Chicago-style political patronage was acceptable in El Pueblo and that there was something wrong with me if I had any problem with it.

What will be interesting to find out - assuming there is not a cover-up (a not very safe assumption, of course) - is exactly who has been the political protectors of this criminal activity for so many years - if not decades.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

LA Cowboy - Politics, Culture and Art in LA

Accepting a dare from Matt Welch of the late, and greatly lamented (other than by the LA Times, of course), LA Examiner - I am going to take a stab (which may soon prove to be, an all too relevant verb) at starting a much needed - civil debate about politics in Los Angeles, along with all of the other aspects of life in LA that can make life here - both exciting and despairing. So... as soon as I figure how the hell to make this damned thing work with a 1997 browser.... this particular LA COWBOY.