by RIP RENSE
The Queen of Los
(Sept. 4, 2003)
I don't like to write about politics. I had my fill
of it as a general assignment reporter for two L.A. dailies years ago, deciding that it's
one bottomless can of worms. The names change, the worms stay the same.
I am coming, ever so briefly, out of
A few weeks ago I
wrote about the proposal to build a gigantic jail in the heart of Little Tokyo, and
what a colossally stupid idea this was. Not only is Little Tokyo a thriving commercial
district and residential community---and a real nice place---but I pointed out that maybe
Japanese-Americans would not like a huge monolithic reminder of government-ordered
incarceration in their midst.
You know, seeing as they were locked up during
World War II, despite being about as All-American as Babe Ruth and Kate Smith.
Anyhow, case closed. The jail will
not be built---thanks entirely to the concerted protests of L.A.'s Japanese-American
community. Now, if they can just focus that same energy on the huge law enforcement
headquarters planned for the same spot. . .
The point of all this is Councilwoman
Jan Perry, whose district includes Little Tokyo. In my column, I asked Perry how the jail
proposal ever got so close to reality, and a number of rhetorical questions:
Jan, have you and your fellow Councilmen/women
forgotten that Little Tokyo is not a quaint tourist stop? Not just a place where you can
ride in its Nisei Week parade every year? That it is a thriving community? That it is a
major part of Los Angeles history? That thousands of elderly citizens reside there, along
with a healthy sized artist contingent? Has the City Council forgotten the Japan American
Cultural and Community Center? The Japan America Theater, the museum? The East-West
Players Playhouse, the senior housing complexes, myriad restaurants, malls, foot traffic,
restored and revitalized main drag on First Street. . .The acute paranoia about losing
business because of beggars spilling over from Skid Row? (Oh, a jail will really help
solve that problem. . .)
Well, I heard back from the Councilwoman,
which was terrific. Here---verbatim, as I received it---is her e-mailed response:
"i read your article. it is unfortunate
that we did not have the chance to speak. if you had, you would know htat (sic) i have opposed
the jail form (sic) the beginning of the process. as for little tokyo as a quint (sic) tourist stop,
please....i have been involved with the community since 1974."
Now, she has a point that I might have checked
with her before writing the column. On the other hand, I was writing a column, not a news
story---and frankly, I think that if she had been doing her job properly, the jail plan
would never have gotten off the drawing board. Just my opinion. But this is not what
surprised me about her response.
It was the "syntax."
Look at it, folks: no capitalization, several
misspellings, and most amazing. . .not even the slightest veneer of formality. Wouldn't
you expect a government official to write something like, "Dear Mr. Rense, I read
your column with interest and some alarm, and would very much like to set the record
straight. . . "? Okay, put aside courtesy---what about her dignity?
Ms. Perry, it seems, suffers from
e-mail-itis, a common ailment which finds strangers writing to one another as if
they have long-standing relationships, and that usually denies the existence of capital
letters, spelling, and correct punctuation. I mean, this reads like a note from a high
It is obvious that Ms. Perry sat down and typed
as fast as she could and then hammered the "send" button. Was it because this
was all a lowly Internet columnist deserved? Or (gasp) because this is how she writes to
I was going to let it go, but then I read that
Ms. Perry's chief of staff, Carson Mayor Daryl Sweeney, recently pleaded guilty to 15
federal charges related to a bribery scandal involving a lucrative trash-hauling contract.
Or rather, he is Ms. Perry's former chief of staff, having resigned when he was
indicted last December.
Hell, if my former chief of staff was looking
at ten years in the pen, I'd misspell stuff in e-mails, too.
Still, I wasn't going to devote a whole column
to this---until I read an Aug. 18 L.A. Times article that Ms. Perry would become acting
mayor of L.A. while Mayor James Hahn is vacationing in Hawaii. Gosh, I thought, I hope she
doesn't have to e-mail anybody important while she's running the city---you know, like
President Bush. Of course, he might not notice the lack of caps and misspelling
"quaint" as "quint," etc., so I was relieved until I read this quote:
"I'm going to have myself designated as
queen," Councilwoman Perry said of her temporary mayoralty.
Well, er, yes, it was only a joke. . .but it
got me to thinking again about that antiquated concept, dignity. Here is a longtime
elected official who cannot be bothered to put a simple e-mail in ordinary letter format,
who sarcastically injects the nagging "please. . ." (as in Oh, puh-lease.
. .) into it---as if gabbing to her Pilates partner or something.
And finally, here is a longtime elected
official whose top aide turns out to be a big-time crook, making a really lame joke about
being Queen of L.A..
Given the apparent lack of humility---if not
shame---at work here, I am now wondering how much of a joke that remark really was.
Think I overreact? Here is a little
I promptly answered the councilwoman's e-mail,
expressing thanks for her note, and offering to interview her at length to get her side of
the story: her opposition to the Little Tokyo jail, etc. What's more, I said we could do
the interview as a Q&A, so that her point of view would be represented word-for-word.
I thought this was only fair, and well, somewhat gracious of me.
Perry accepted my invitation, then referred me
to assistant Eva Kandarpa to arrange the interview. Ms. Kandarpa asked when I would like
to do it, and I said "at the councilwoman's convenience," but the sooner the
better. Ms. Kandarpa said she would send background information within a week, and get
back to me.
I waited two weeks, never received the
background information, and never heard another word about the agreed-upon interview, from
Ms. Kandarpa or the councilwoman. So I cancelled it. Ms. Kandarpa wrote back, explaining
that she had been busy, but began her note with that blame-the-other-party ploy:
"I'm sorry that you feel that way."
As if I was the reason the interview didn't
Well, at least Ms. Kandarpa was
polite, though, plus she capitalized the first words of her
sentences, and spelled everything right.
How quint. She'll never get to be Queen of Los
Angeles that way.
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