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by RIP RENSE

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Vote For Granny
(Feb. 16, 2005)

        I ran into mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa, which I think is pronounced roughly like Bela Lugosi, a couple weeks ago.
        He and another guy were sitting in a nice car in Little Tokyo, late on a cool Sunday afternoon, while a hot blonde female companion scoped out a nearby restaurant. At least I think that's what she was doing. She had exited the nice car, fulsome hair cascading over a white blouse, legs borrowed from Barbi, carrying a clipboard.
        This would be a political aide.
        Anyhow, Little Anthony sat imperially in the front seat, as he and his pal awaited some sort of beckoning from Blondie. Boy, was he well dressed! I mean, that was a seriously stiff white collar on that shirt, and the charcoal suit looked like it had grown around him. If his fingers weren't weighed down with bling, I must have added that in memory.
        As I walked by, Little Anthony looked up with the half-smile of a star who expects recognition from a fan. I stared at him briefly as though he were just another guy sitting in a car. Which, of course, he was. He knew that game, too, and quickly averted his expectant gaze.
        I don't care for Villaraigosa---he's an obsequious "consensus builder" (read: unprincipled) and an even more charismatic speaker than Mayor James Hahn. And I find especially odious all the pronouncements of how he could become "the first Latino mayor of L.A." I don't care if he's Latino or Latvian. It should be as irrelevant as the allegations that he fooled around on his wife ten years ago. But these are the sorts of "issues" that people seem to enjoy talking and writing about---certainly not problem-solving.
        Funny thing is, I might end up voting for Little Anthony. Especially if I have a couple of good stiff drinks before going into the voting booth. But more on that later.
        Meanwhile, let me handicap the L.A. mayoral candidates for you, in brief:
        Bernard Parks is a city councilman, like Little Anthony, and former police chief selected largely because he is African-American. He seems an earnest fellow, and cuts an elegant, lanky figure, with handsome strands of gray woven into hair and moustache, and a pleasing baritone voice. These features, in fact, would seem his greatest legacies as a police chief and councilman, and are his most apparent assets as potential mayor.
        Richard Alarcon is a career politician whose name is pronounced "Ala-corn" by white TeeVee newsmannequins. He is a state senator, whatever exactly that is, and he speaks with conviction about things all candidates speak about: limiting campaign contributions from this or that group (in his case, developers, which is a good idea and probably killed his candidacy from the get-go), add more cops, and so on. I would vote for him on the basis of his excellent pencil-thin moustache. I'd like a mayor with a pencil-thin moustache.
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No matter which one of these supermen sets up shop in the Daily Planet building downtown, nothing but nothing is going to change.
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        Bob Hertzberg is a chubby guy from the Valley and a former Assembly Speaker, whatever exactly that is. I was exiled to the Valley for a good many years, so I am predisposed against voting for him on that basis. Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been elected governor in a fit of mass delusion, supports Bob, as does former L.A. Mayor Richard "Dog Boy" Riordan. (I gave him that nickname because if you turn the sound off during his public statements, he appears to bark.) These endorsements mean that Bob is in the pocket of people with lots and lots of money who don't give a rat's ass about the quality of life in Los Angeles. Which, of course, means he has a shot.
        Mayor James Hahn looks the way formica and vinyl smell. He is as scintillating as a smoggy day, as amorphous of personality as Los Angeles, so maybe he's a perfect mayoral fit. Hahn has lately been "embroiled in scandal," a cliched phrase that always makes me hungry, over various aides being investigated for doing strange things with money. He claims to know nothing about it, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't. I don't think he knows much about anything that goes on around him, or if he does, he is certainly not bothered about it. Like Alarcon, he is the type of elected official who forever talks about more cops, and limiting political contributions, and so-on. He recently gave a hundred grand to all the neighborhood councils in town, which as near as I can tell, enables them to fix twenty or thirty potholes each instead of having the city do it. Hahn badly wants to spend the entire budgets of most small nations on remaking Los Angeles International Airport, which was just remade a few years ago.
        Now what I suggest you all do, fellow voters, is write in someone. Your college roommate. Your dog. Usher. Your dear departed granny. I'm serious. I figure that if enough people do not vote for any of these guys, none of them will get elected, and chaos will ensue. I think chaos already runs the city of L.A., and this would just make it apparent. Otherwise, no matter which one of these supermen sets up shop in the Daily Planet building downtown, nothing but nothing is going to change.
        None of these public servants, you see, seem to understand that the city is broken. Kaput. Defunct. Dead as I wish all cell phones were. Developers have long been given free reign here to raze anything-and-everything that can be replaced by something more remunerative. Neighborhoods are ground up from Monterey Park to Sherman Oaks to West L.A. to Atwater Village, and rebuilt as giant condo hives and homes that look like Turkish whorehouses. Godzilla could not do more damage.
        This is nothing new, of course, and no revelation. Everyone knows it's happening. And that's the funny thing. Everyone knows, but no one does anything to stop it.
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Then there is what is forgivingly called "traffic." Now the word, "traffic," you see, connotes movement, but that is not the case in L.A.. Several nights per week, streets simply roll over and die.
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       Then you have "south-central," as it is benignly known, and various other city neighborhoods on the news every night for gang murders, "officer-involved shootings," and general futility. This ensues decade after decade, yet you never hear of plans to seriously change anything. (Imagine if all the developers currently bulldozing L.A.'s character gave one-tenth of their profits to hard-luck schools.) All you ever hear are calls for "more cops," or current Chief Bill Bratton's crackpot, trickle-down anti-crime theory: that if you stop grafitti, you stop gang shootings.
        Pardon me while I teach my pet monkey to sing.
        Then there is what is forgivingly called "traffic." Now the word, "traffic," you see, connotes movement, but that is not the case in L.A.. Several nights per week, streets simply roll over and die. It's not "a tough drive," as the TeeVee Trafficmannequins pregnantly chant---it's no drive. Side streets are overrun with people gone utterly berserk, ignoring stop signs, mowing down pedestrians, taking 50 mph shortcuts through blind alleys. In order to eventually re-encounter a main drag that is as constipated as Dom DeLuise after Thanksgiving. Freeways? An oxymoron, any time of day or night.
        This is nothing new, of course, and no revelation. Everyone knows it's happening. And that's the funny thing. Everyone knows, but no one does anything to stop it.
        Los Angeles has finally become unlivable. Not difficult, not stressful---unlivable. I have the ulcer to prove it. You drive two miles and without exception you narrowly escape two or three major accidents. You are tailgated constantly. Cars roll through stop signs and dart in front of you if there is the slightest chance they can do it without collision. No one stops for fire engines or screaming cop cars anymore. SUV's pause mid-block without signal or emergency flasher, while their occupants make phone calls, pluck eyelashes, adjust I-pods and thong underpants. Signalling? Sure. People signal left and turn right, if they signal at all. If you are a pedestrian, drivers nearly kill you, and then give you the finger because you had the audacity to nearly turn them into murderers. . .
        And the Dodgers have been kidnapped by grifters who refuse to make the stadium earthquake-safe.
        But back to Little Anthony. The reason I said that I might, if sufficiently drunk, vote for the lightweight prettyboy martinet is that he is only candidate talking about transportation. He claims that he wants to complete the light-rail lines throughout the city, something that should have been done during the Sam Yorty administration.
        The chances of Villaraigosa being able to bring this about are as great as Hahn break-dancing. The chances of this solving L.A.'s congestion are as great as the mayor and city council declaring a moratorium on all residential development. Which, of course, is the real cause of all the congestion.
        Yes, I suspect that Little Anthony is probably lying to get my vote. I figure that because he lost endorsements from organized labor and Riordan, which he had in the last election, he's just looking for an angle to grab some headlines. But that doesn't make him any different from any other candidate.
        Except, perhaps, your dear departed granny.

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