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The Pinball Wizard of Samoa Ave.

The flackage at Curbed LA couldn't have been better for newly-minted Councilman Paul Krekorian last year:
On his very first day in office last month, new City Councilmember Paul Krekorian asked that the City Council review a density bonus the Planning Commission had given to a proposed Valley Village condo project. Neighbors have been fighting the development for years, and last week the City Council reviewed the matter and granted their appeal. Now the developer has to either go back to the drawing board or drop the project entirely.
So Krekorian came out early and strong against SB 1818, the notorious State legislation, which inspired a copycat City of LA Ordinance that was mostly gutted by a Superior Court judge a year and a half ago.

But while the law itself has lost much of its teeth, it lives on in LA, thanks to Council theater, and, in the words of one activist, "still entitles developers to rape the city as they see fit."

While Krekorian bought some early confidence in Studio City, his district has also been entertaining a 64-unit 1818-styled project in Sunland Tujunga for three years now. The Councilman has been far softer on that one, thus far content to listen rather than to lead.

Going back to Krekorian's first crush with his district as documented by Curbed, there was this key caveat:
A rep for Krekorian tells us that rather than trying to change the city ordinance that governs SB 1818, he'll look at "each project on a case-by-case basis, judging them on how best they fit in with community guidelines," and that he'll look to residents to guide his decisions.
So be it, amen, &c. In fact, what that "rep" for Krekorian's office told Curbed LA runs parallel to what Krekorian's communications director Jeremy Oberstein told me when I profiled Krekorian in April--but the implications are quite different now:
And this is how he's been able to keep the pitchfork people in his district at bay on a 64-unit 1818 development on Samoa in the City's density-despising ground zero, Sunland Tujunga. Krekorian hasn't overtly endorsed the project, but after suggesting during his campaign that elements of SB 1818 were flawed, he has sent a letter to the City's Housing Department encouraging tax-exempt status and funding. The building "isn't the typical 1818 project Paul railed against," Krekorian's communication director Jeremy Oberstein tells me, reflecting Krekorian's own sotto voce, flip-it style on thorny political matters.
The Samoa project has become big news in Sunland Tujunga. The community is solidly against it; the sentiment is unmistakeable. The neighborhood council Land Use Committee has rallied against; chair Tomi Lyn Bowling even has a YouTube video drive-by (above) demonstrating how out of synch and out of scale the project is with Sunland Tujunga.

Now there's an ad hoc committee also working against. Even local DONE darling Cindy Cleghorn, who has recused herself on the matter, is said to be privately against it.

But the City itself is highly defensive of the project--I heard that even a rep at the City Attorney's office recently implied to a community activist that resistance was unwise. If true, that would certainly be a departure from this comment of Jane Usher's a while back...

PLUM did its usual rubber stamp in April, and the project will soon come before Council. Absent an 1818-based legal challenge, the Samoa project appears to be on a fast track to get in the ground, despite the community's nearly complete objection.

Wendy Greuel used to play this Kabuki game with this community too: she would say, "I'm listening," and then when Council ultimately voted (with her protesting furiously), she would shrug, "What can I do, my hands are tied?" No, it won't be Paul Krekorian who votes for Samoa. It will be twelve other Council members, and Krekorian opposing--and that's the game they all play for each other.

If Krekorian is truly looking to "residents to guide his decisions," as someone in his office told Curbed in February of last year, he'd have to be a pinball wizard to miss the community's sentiment on this one. More likely, the Council office is hedging its bets on the Samoa project in a way it didn't on the Valley Village project, as best it can and for an unknown reason the community needs to continue to explore. If you're outside the neighborhood, grab some popcorn--this should be fun to watch.

Kevin James anchors his outsider narrative

Opinion: The pitchfork people across the City already like Kevin James. His initiative to make part timers of City Councilmembers appeals to his constituency--but as of yet few others. Now he needs to hammer away on specific civic fiascoes--like the recent Sunset Junction Malfunction--as tangible exemplars of failure in civic government, and to give his initiative legs.

There are a lot of folks across the City who naturally cotton to Kevin James and his "throw the bums out" message that also resonates with various reactionary LA subsets. But James' initiative to make part-timers of City Councilmembers may yet, as presented by James, be a little too rich for ordinary voters to swallow. He doesn't need statistics so much as he needs memorable civic events to make his narrative stick in the minds of the public as a real reform measure.

If the public were outraged by mere fiscal statistics, we would have already brought Charter-level change to Los Angeles. It is indeed occasionally outraged by salaries, but I believe Council has excellent counter-arguments to James: for instance, to suggest that Council offices don't work full days when we see them taking meetings at nights and doing events on weekends doesn't help James' position. Nor does the fact that each Councilmember represents a district that's nearly the size of St. Louis or Pittsburg, without sub-councils of its own from which to draw.

James, who can run a little long at the tooth (which is OK in a politician--Clinton famously could as well) would be well served by lasering in on specific Council fiascoes that are part of recent collective memory.

A longstanding AIDS Project LA vet, James is a natural, for instance, to go toe-to-toe against Garcetti and City Hall over the recent Sunset Junction Malfunction. The way Garcetti staffers and several City Hall voices have whitewashed the history of the Street Fair itself is easy to demonstrate and inspires anger and outrage in many communities outside of the two-mile zone of the Junction.

Far from a blissful, harmonious community event through the eighties, SJ erred on the ACT UP style of activism in the 1980s and 1990's--and the real legacy of the fair should not be abandoned out of political expedience. One community resident told me yesterday that when she took her kids to the Street Fair, she was mocked as a "breeder," for instance. She told me that indeed, even in the early days, most parents decided to keep their kids away, which is consistent with my own memories of SJ's nascent years. It was only privatization of the Fair--which brought greater crowd control, but also entry fees--that made it more family-oriented.

Nobody in the Mayor's race is better positioned to tell this story better than Kevin James. And if James crusades against the City on this issue and Sunset Junction indeed comes back last year--it would only look like a win for Kevin James.

The James initiative may or may not collect steam, but it will certainly tie his candidacy to an outsider narrative going forward. His effort needs fewer statistics and more specifics: more instances of civic failure that are tied not to figures, but to civic memory.

Has time passed Rudy by?

Spent a lot of time yesterday talking about Council District 15 and also interviewed a candidate down there. There was a releasing of Cracker Jack prizes from two camps' boxes. Sheriff Baca endorsed Warren Furutani. Pat McOsker was able to deal with his own union, as Brother McOsker takes a "leave of absence" (shades of Brad Smith)--after facing pressure from "dissatisfied members of United Firefighters Local 721" to do just that--and thereby gets the endorsement of the bucket brigade. And word from a poll indicated weak internals on the McOsker side.

But my favorite line of yesterday was delivered at candidate Rudy Svorinich's expense. A community development watchdog--of which San Pedro is loaded--said:
The 'politicos' in San Pedro all have differing opinions as to which candidate might win, but they are all making sneering faces whenever Rudy's name comes up.
To state the obvious: San Pedro is not like Hollywood or Downtown or the Westside. It pays attention. It has bigger docks and bigger shoulders. Its blue dogs are bluer than in other parts of town; ergo Jane Harman. It has pitchfork people, like the Anglo part of the Valley. And not many of any of these are especially fussy for former Councilman Rudy Svorinich's ties to developer Bob Bisno and Bisno Development.

Svorinich had acted as lobbyist for Bisno while he was out of office, and is having a hard time living it down. Even though he's offered plenty of penance, apparently not many are buying it.

Presently, Bisno Development has a project of staggering scope on the table: a 60+ acre mini-me Playa Vista called Ponte Vista, which has in various incarnations seen as many as 1900 homes. Councilwoman Hahn opposed that plan in 2008 and asked for a downsize. Presently the project is at EIR stage and one proposal will provide half as many homes. (The EIR is expected to come out right around the time of the election, perchance before and perchance after.) Bisno Development has had its share of intriguing financial moves in the recession, including a Chapter 11 excursion in 2009.

The feeling Svorinich is now having a difficult time escaping is that if elected as Councilman, he would simply become the Councilman from Ponte Vista. No matter how hard he tries to insist otherwise, the questions pop up, and questions are as tough to face as answers in blue collar Pedro.

The odd factor that is double trouble for Svorinich is that San Pedro's unions have generally supported Ponte Vista. But with one union head and another candidate backed by the Mayor's office, there will be little meaningful union support left over for Svorinich.

Even with 20 candidates, the McOsker and Furutani camps are both trying to frame the race as exclusively between their two candidates. Both want into what seems now like a certain runoff. But McOsker has enough of a thuggish reputation and Furutani enough of a career politician rep though that the field could change if any other candidates distinguish themselves sooner rather than later. With Svorinich having a tough time getting traction in the district he once represented, the field is potentially open for a sensible alternative candidate.

Three Community Alternatives

As neighborhood councils face their time of troubles, alternative voices are becoming more prominent in communities around Los Angeles.

About a month ago, Terre Ashmore began an alternative blog in Sunland Tujunga called Brock Ba'jer ("brock" is Celtic for badger). A bit of a badger herself, Ashmore also hosted the first community garden to which I ever belonged back in 1994. I knew her through my ties to Natural History Museum, where she came to give symposia curated by a friend of mine.

Terre was responsible back then for assembling many of the natural habitats at the LA Zoo, matching fauna to flora. She brought to Natural History a globally-culled expertise in natural flora habitats that brought together many of the museum's best botany figures. A kind of proto-xtreme community gardening activist back then, Terre also introduced me to the Theodore Payne Foundation in the mid 1990s.

In Silver Lake, the blogger I mentioned last Saturday, Brian Pacheco Corleto, who takes the kind of academic approach to community relations often found among Latino staffers in Council offices and on the MTA, writes Imaginação et réflexions d'un mec salvadoreño. It certainly has enough diacritical marks to pass ethnic class struggle muster, even if it is written in English. Educated at Berkeley, Corleto thinks Sunset Junction promoters snubbed Silver Lake's Latino community over the years, especially the years in which the festival was privatized.

Jennifer Solis in Westlake is working toward a PhD in Developmental Psychology. She doesn't blog--hopefully soon?--but offered a piece to CityWatch on the one percent solution for Neighborhood Councils that rebutted Greg Nelson's rebuttal of the idea, which I first promoted here at street-hassle. Even if she doesn't start a blog, I would certainly expect more of her at CityWatch.

New Moon in Virgo

Everyone was relieved at the end of the recent Merc retrograde Friday, even if the lunar cycle didn't end/begin until tonight's new moon in sexy but stand-offish Virgo. And things could change around here this cycle...

One's a rumor, two's a trend, and three's worth a phone call. I think Councilwoman Jan Perry is likely to ditch her mayoral run in September and take her dollars over to the Controller's race, where hitherto coasting Dennis Zine is likely the stiffest possible competitor. This move makes perfect sense. Perry can't win as mayor, especially if Caruso enters (see below). The Controller's race, however, usually goes to the person with the top name, and Jan Perry trumps Zine in this regard.

People are also getting edgy around the periphery of the Rick Caruso orbit and I also hear he is entering the mayor's race sooner rather than later.

Candidate Rebecca Chambliss in CD15 tweeted that she saw a lot of people with clipboards in San Pedro this weekend, trying to get 500 signatures. Twenty candidates have filed intentions; twenty is also the limit of gate positions available at the Kentucky Derby.

Last but not least: would you believe Ron Kaye in Zine's old district? The Marlboro Man of the west Valley is said to be coveting a run.

A Pretend August Nativity

now im a crazy person, that cannot be denied.
but Los Angeles is a city in a huge financial crisis, right?
you’re telling me that even though Ticketmaster wrote a six figure check, the city still thinks that its a good idea NOT to allow a situation
where you can tax people on a weekend as they buy overpriced beers and slurpees in flower pots?
you want those people to go to anaheim or something?

--tony pierce, busblog

Even aside from the mercurial, heard it all today. About how Mitch had to choose between keeping Jennifer and the woman at EchoPlex on payroll, which should say something about all of their (in)ability to be rich and to raise money if the City would only pay attention. About how festival-killing merchants in Sunset Junction felt a need for extra police protection because of threats. About how the cops showed up en masse today and on the City's nickel, yet the price for cops was a key deal breaker for Garcetti, the one he and Andrea Alarcon raked them over the fire on. About how if Ticketmaster put up $100K to try to save Sunset Junction, they must have found that an optimum price point for owning Sunset Junction going forward. About how Sunset Junction is all about the community and is wrecked if it's not. About how the real problem was not the vendor, who is just behaving like a vendor, but privatizing Sunset Junction in the first place--which was a City decision. About how Sunset Junction is more like Mardi Gras, a chance for everyone to interact with everyone else, and the steep ticket price, which is really not so steep for the westside hipsters who show up, is more geared at crowd control than making money. About how you do or you don't kill Mardi Gras over $400,000. About how neighbors should run everything and about how neighbors are big babies who if they can't have it exactly their way 365 days a year rather than 363 they start whining. About how the emboldened NIMBY merchants will now move to take out the farmer's market, which doesn't impact them 2 days out of 365, but 104 days out of 365. About how if you're in the Sunset Junction two mile zone, you want the festival to be yours all yours, like a territorial surfer, it's your beach, and if you're out of the two mile zone, you are just puzzled and maybe even laughing at the City that can't get its act together. About how they're laughing in San Francisco and San Diego about this. About how they're really laughing now in Echo Park about this. About how...

I'd like to sidestep all that because Dangerbird's very first show, which went off with we mad reservoir dogs and Englishmen standing out in the midday dysfunction, was the way anyone would want it to be, Holly Conlan taking the cramped crowd into three point territory. One spot at one time got one thing right. It did, in fact, look a little like a stranded late August nativity...

The question was, what was being born? As with all holy nativities, you had to pretend, and a lot not a little. I had to pretend today that someone setting up a trap set next to a guy drinking a latte is is interesting, for about exactly as long as it takes to drive past it. I had to pretend that first sets at 7 p.m. were just as festival like as first sets going on at noon, and I was asked to pretend over and over that over the past decade stranded westside hipsters were the only people who ever came to Sunset Junction, which is now dead. And I had to pretend that Sunset Junction remains the new Bethlehem even as Echo Park is where most of the babies are now being born. But even one artist can save it all for you, so I can't complain, and so thank you to Holly Conlan and to Dangerbird, that place with the black and blue mural of the skulls on the cellphones across the street from where Debbie Cortez Lopez always parks The Vehicle while I run in, &c. Shepherds quaked.


Post Junction Malfunction promotions spread
Sunset Junction declining - Echo Park Rising
Final Thoughts on Sunset Junction
KPCC presents City side on Sunset Junction

Garcetti, Alarcon flimflam Sunset Junction into oblivion

Alarcon asserts her authority over Sunset Junction

Will 219 NIMBYs kill Sunset Junction?
"All we need is a loan for a week"
Despite legacy, board hijacks Sunset Junction

Post-Junction Malfunction promotions spread

What cheer? indeed.

Now that the merchants of Silver Lake have found away to kill off the street fair that brought the neighborhood national notoriety, they've decided they actually like the idea of mixing in a little music with their shopkeeping on the last weekend in August.

Dangerbird Records @3801 West Sunset will host some artists on their label, including Butch Walker and the Black Widows, from noon to six today in their courtyard. Like in SJ days of old, the band will take donations...and give them to some cause or other.

Meanwhile, the silver continues to flee Silver Lake, even south of the 101, as What Cheer? Productions, which had smoothly timed its debut weekend to SJ, picks up a lot of the wandering tribes, including 1776 from Portland. They're now dubbing it as the Conjunxion Music Festival at the newly minted What Cheer? Bar, 3213 Beverly Blvd. Hard to follow as it's all still being sorted out but you can try at the Facebook page.

And if you missed it, Sarah Dale, one of the other SJ assassins and the proprietor of Pull My Daisy, is trying to capitalize too, hosting a magician and a popcorn truck. That doesn't sound like a credible alternative to k.d. lang to me, but Dale is quite pleased with herself anyway: "We are trying to make the best of a sad situation," she tells The Eastsider. One she was delighted to do her best to cause, we note.

Meanwhile, can't wait to see what Sunset Junction blogger Brian Pacheco Corleto thinks of a moniker like "Echo Park Rising." A few months back he wrote a memorable post about coding and overcoding at the Times when it called Echo Park a "hipster destination."


Sunset Junction declining - Echo Park Rising

Final Thoughts on Sunset Junction
KPCC presents City side on Sunset Junction

Garcetti, Alarcon flimflam Sunset Junction into oblivion

Alarcon asserts her authority over Sunset Junction

Will 219 NIMBYs kill Sunset Junction?
"All we need is a loan for a week"
Despite legacy, board hijacks Sunset Junction

Sunset Junction Declining - Echo Park Rising

Of course it was bound to happen. Once Eric Garcetti and Andrea Alarcon killed Sunset Junction Street Fair, with a profound assist from the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, a savvier chamber of commerce (so savvy as to not call themselves a chamber of commerce at all) swooped in not only to steal the unmoored SJ acts, but applied a commercial spin as well. The resultant spendfest is called Echo Park Rising, and you can bet that the merchants who control Silver Lake Neighborhood Council deserve every dollar lost to neohipster hopeful bistro Mohawk Bend and the artsy-klunky Echoplex this weekend.

Echo Park Rising may be pure ad hoc fluff, but it's fluff you haven't been to, likely, and they're betting you're curious to do something in the huggymuggy heat. Here are the three places signed onto the libation scene: Echo and the Echoplex, Mohawk Bend, and City Sip. This is decidedly Garcetti's side of Echo Park; the sturdier bars like The Shortstop, Little Joy and Taix haven't hopped on board, at least not yet, and as for Barragan's--well, that might be a little too downmarket for these Rising people.

Live music schedule here.

The Echo LA itself is of course first to rock the #echoparkrising hashtag. I think I'm 7th in. Prolly not what they had in mind.

Nonetheless, to the merchants of Silver Lake and Sunset Junction who control the Neighborhood Council--the NC that was duped into attaching unrealistic conditions to Sunset Junction Street Fair, and who will now stand in envy of the commerce down the road, perchance fleeing for good--all I have to say is: "Verily, I say unto you, you have your reward."


Final Thoughts on Sunset Junction

David Lazarus shills for the City on Sunset Junction

Garcetti, Alarcon flimflam Sunset Junction into oblivion

Alarcon asserts her authority over Sunset Junction

Will 219 NIMBYs kill Sunset Junction?
"All we need is a loan for a week"
Despite legacy, board hijacks Sunset Junction

Final Thoughts on Sunset Junction

When the City killed Sunset Junction Street Fair, the dispute was not simply about a debtor holding an unpaid bill. It was about a vindictive landlord studiously evicting a modestly delinquent family on a holiday eve.

To see so many people in civic government and local media parroting specious arguments legitimizing our City government's eleventh-hour actions killing Sunset Junction Street Fair has been nearly as disappointing as the cancelling of the thirty-year festival itself.

Despite what the neighbors say, Sunset Junction Street Fair has not suddenly become a nuisance to its residents and nearby merchants--it has always been a nuisance to these. A merchant as far away as Echo Park told me yesterday that "for decades, we've just written the weekend off." Which is fair enough, but let's not pretend that this concern about Sunset Junction is a new one. It has been a nuisance to neighbors three days a year out of 365--for three decades.

Such concerns are very small minded, indeed selfish, when laid next to the greater good brought to the wider audience. Very small minded. Neighbors to music venues around the City have far less say over far more sustained disturbance. The residents of north Vermont Avenue are deeply disturbed by the traffic the Greek Theater fetches throughout the summer. I'm sure if you even asked the Bunker Hill Towers residents if they'd like to get rid of the Disney Hall, they'd consider the nuisance it causes the neighborhood four evenings a week from October through May. The perimeter houses adjacent to the Day of the Drum and Watts Towers Jazz Festival endure the kind of temporary nuisance the neighbors of Sunset Junction do. But we see a greater good in maintaining these.

I'm sure Mardi Gras was once a pleasant little street-gathering as well. One notes that New Orleans did not shut it down because it became too popular.

The anomalies regarding the fee payments to the City are not unusual to the Board of Public Works; in fact, they are typical. Just last week, Public Works admitted to Council that it had no idea how much money it was supposed to receive from a bus bench vendor because it felt the vendor didn't submit the right paperwork through the past few years.

If the City switched vendors in that case, which they did, why did it not consider switching promoters earlier in this case, at the first sign of problems? Once again, when dealing even with an underpublicized Board, there is no consistency at all. And a source tells us that the Sunset Junction folks even signed their last contract, in 2010, under protest, potentially invalidating it as a binding document. Wouldn't that be warning sign enough?

I asked several City administrators yesterday if it was their own experience as residents of the City that the City occasionally sends out spurious bills hoping for the best, and one protested that there's an appropriate appeal process that wasn't followed in this case. Are they still expecting an appeal, then? That seems an admission that the City still doesn't know whether the bills it sent are legitimate or not. It's also worth noting that the bills were made delinquent following a Council Ordinance fashioned less than two years ago.

There's one other thing I believe that especially needs clarifying. Media have consistently repeated the same meme about Sunset Junction: that it was originally founded to allow Silver Lake's Latino and Gay and Lesbian communities to interact and forge a broader understanding of each other. Language suggesting this is found on Sunset Junction's wikipedia page--but if it's true, I sure don't remember it this way. In its earliest days--the nascent days of the AIDS epidemic--Sunset Junction Street Fair was a de facto gay and lesbian pride event that featured music and also community booths. Latinos had a presence and an involvement, and it was a proportional one, but it wasn't an especially defining one.

The reason gay and lesbian communities came to define Sunset Junction was because of the historic legacy of the Junction itself. A civil disturbance at a gay bar in 1967--two years before Stonewall--made the intersection and the term "Sunset Junction" itself a rallying cry. West Hollywood only became an incorporated City in 1984--Sunset Junction was a gay ghetto even in the 1950's.

The media's performance over these past few days, telling the story in a way that gave City government full voice while vilifying the promoters, has been as disgraceful as the City's actions itself. In the age of social media, print media especially are increasingly irrelevant to the promotion of the festival. Don't think that print media in their coverage of this civic fiasco weren't also moaning over the loss of ad revenue and allowing the fact to influence its coverage of this exasperating execution.

When the City killed Sunset Junction Street Fair, the dispute was not simply about a debtor holding an unpaid bill. It was about a vindictive landlord studiously evicting a modestly delinquent family on a holiday eve.


David Lazarus shills for the City on Sunset Junction

Garcetti, Alarcon flimflam Sunset Junction into oblivion

Alarcon asserts her authority over Sunset Junction

Will 219 NIMBYs kill Sunset Junction?
"All we need is a loan for a week"
Despite legacy, board hijacks Sunset Junction

KPCC gives the City's side on Sunset Junction

It's almost unbelievable, the hatchet job Times scribe David Lazarus did on Sunset Junction on KPCC this morning. Listen for yourself.

First, he brings in Andrea Domanick, from the LA Weekly--which used to get beaucoup ad revenue from the Fair but no longer does--and brings in nobody from the opposing side. He does insist that he tried the organizers--who were actively trying to save the event even as Lazarus was on the air.

[No, my phone didn't ring this morning, either. Much of the show was devoted to rebutting many of my complaints about the way the City killed Sunset Junction--see links below.]

Domanick proceeds to insist that the festival generates "literally millions of dollars" every year, and smug Lazarus takes her word for it.

[Note: the entry fee is $25. Sunset Junction may draw up to 10,000 people--really doubtful, but it may. But let's pretend it draws 25,000. $25 x 25,000 = $625,000. (Reports of up to 100,000 are greatly exaggerated--to see what 100,000 people look like check out the photo on the left). Given those numbers: do you really think the festival generates even much beyond one million dollars--let alone "literally millions of dollars"? And of course, the bulk of the money goes to artist fees and advertising.]

The first caller David Lazarus takes, predictably, is a Silver Lake Neighborhood Council member (see my item yesterday--these were last elected by a whopping 219 voters, total). "Rusty" says that "the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council represents the entire community of Silver Lake. Not just the merchants on the street." I wonder whose arguments he's addressing? He also admits that "the Council office was very frustrated with Sunset Junction organizers."

The second call he takes is from Dana, another neighbor complainer.

The third doesn't fit the show's script, and Lazarus argues with him.

"None of this has been paid," the fourth caller says.

Yusef Robb of Councilman Garcetti's office today tells me that these bills became "unpaid" because of a City ordinance passed less than two years ago, and promises to provide me with that Ordinance.

Ultimately, this is just "a story about unpaid bills," Lazarus concludes. Domanack then vilifies the promoter. The End. Thirty-one years, the whole gay and lesbian legacy of Sunset Junction: gone with the wind.


Garcetti, Alarcon flimflam Sunset Junction into oblivion

Alarcon asserts her authority over Sunset Junction

Will 219 NIMBYs kill Sunset Junction?
"All we need is a loan for a week"
Despite legacy, board hijacks Sunset Junction

One percent solution discussion revs up

A One-Percent Solution for Neighborhood Councils

Is it time to pull the plug?

Commercial trumps residential on NC boards across LA
Outreach, power under scrutiny at NC forum

Hollywood Bowl lovin' Sunset Junction's closure

O, the mendacity.

LA v. NY, river-wise

Noted: NYTimes does a feature on kayaking the LA River without once mentioning Councilman Ed Reyes--or any LA Councilman.

I guess this all happened because a group of kayakers suddenly showed up on the River and decided to try their luck paddling downstream.

The former fishwrap of national record is not impressed with the fact that LA actually has a river. All it offers its readers as evidence of an LA river is a shot of a kayaker paddling under a freeway bridge.

By the way, have you seen what the Hudson River looks like lately?

Chumps. Report the news in your own backyard and you might be just fine yet.


August Staycation? Try Kayaking the River

Like a River

Blaine at Roy's

Crazy imaginative: Chef Blaine Villasin

You can be honest: you may think "I'm craving Thai" once a month or "I'm jonesing for Italian" even more frequently, but unless you are daydreaming of a recent escape to the north shore of Oahu and how miles-away-from-here sumptuously tropical it was, you are rarely going to think, "I gotta have Hawaiian fusion tonight." It's OK to admit as much to yourself.

Just know that it might be your loss if you don't crave Hawaiian fusion too every so often.

We wandered in to Roy's downtown last night for a media junket kind of thing, introducing a recently arrived chef. Like the Patina group, Roy's is its own constellation; downtown, Roy's is at 800 Fig around these parts, a scant block south of the City's main metro stop at 7th. And also like in the Patina group, the chefs at Roy's pretty much have free reign. In fact, like at other stand-alone notable restaurants, it's not uncommon when they arrive to bring dependable former sous-chefs with them.

Passing through the restaurant's three dining rooms, I was surprised at how big and bustling it was. It's a perfect theater restaurant--they are big enough to seat you quickly and chock full of enough staff to time your dinner to end when you want. Even at 6:30, the bustle and hum of the place reminded me of eating at Engine Co. 28 back in the day and catching the shuttle bus to go see Private Lives at the Taper. There are only a few restaurants downtown that are especially sensitive to the fact that you may actually like to do something else with your evening too, and this is one of them. Service I could see was exceptional throughout.

But the service is just a sideshow compared to what you might like to eat there. The media were there for the new chef, Blaine Villasin (top photo, a little younger, but only a little), a Hawaii native and San Diego State alum and Cordon Bleu grad. I know when you think Cordon Bleu you think fancy, busy hotels in Orange County with golf courses and kitchens run by guys with 99-pleats in their hat, but this guy is a lot different from what you think. He took full advantage of being proximate to LA gastro-exotica while studying--for instance, he used three different sea salts on three of the various dishes we were served.

That's his trademark, I think: he really zeroes in on imaginative spicing. My wife was glad to taste star anise--very forward, that spice--in an imaginative dish with a pork belly and a soy stock base--to her, star anise is like an old friend dropping in from the east coast. We also had a very imaginative sashimi topped with a cilantro chimichurri to start; and it occurred to me while looking at the way it was plated that a restaurant that serves sashimi or other island cuisine does not have a garde manger, but a sushi sous-chef who knows more about artful plating. But it was fabulous, the type of thing you could never come up with at home without experimenting for years.

There was artful plating through all the courses. There was also a rack of lamb that came both on the bone and in medallions, which was purely perfect, and another exotically-spiced plate of fried scallops. But the dessert, a collaboration with the restaurants dessert chef, was very memorable, a semifreddo with lychee and lime gelee that so far outpaced any ordinary crème brûlée that it almost made it a shame to think that some well-known restaurants still serve desserts that are not anything imaginative.

Honestly, I think especially that people who like Matsuhisa or Nobu would also much like this incarnation of Roy's under Chef Blaine; it's not quite going to set you back the way Nobu will, but you will get the full force of a strong and recognizably Pacific Rim-cultivated culinary imagination behind every dish anyway. And of course while on the south end of downtown I love the idea of escaping the trauma-tecture and bland national chain stuff of LA Live for a suitably ginormous space in an unpretentious office building with a real wait staff who are perfectly attentive to your hopes for your evening. Conventioneers can depend on Roy's, theater-goers certainly can, and especially anyone caught in one of those rare moments jonesing for Hawaiian fusion--which do not, I promise, come nearly frequently enough.

Roy's Restaurant downtown
is at 800 South Figueroa Street Los Angeles, CA 90017. Hours: Sun: 5–9pm | Mon-Thurs: 11:30am–10pm Fri: 11:30am–10:30pm | Sat: 5–10:30pm. There's an Aloha Hour every night 4:30-6:30pm, and recently selected appetizer plates have gone for $5. Call (213) 488-4994.

Garcetti, Alarcon flimflam Sunset Junction into oblivion

No, nothing for the gay and lesbian community today--but how about another sharrow?

Acting on the advice of a NIMBY-howling Neighborhood Council elected by no more than 219 voters, City Public Works board president Andrea Alarcon and City Council President Eric Garcetti killed the internationally renown Sunset Junction Street Fair today and then tapdanced on the grave.

City Councilman Eric Garcetti, whose district includes Silver Lake, was on vacation Wednesday. But Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said the councilman supported the board’s decision and accused festival organizers of trying to “flimflam $400,000 from the taxpayers.”

“The fact that they came up with a large sum -- not the full amount, but a large sum nonetheless -- in just 36 hours, shreds their credibility even more. They should have spent the last 12 months coming up with the full amount.”
The decedent was 31 years old. Neither the AIDS pandemic nor community moralizers nor privatization could kill the fair, which was the closest thing to a gay and lesbian pride event that the City sponsors, with deep roots extending into that community's historic LA legacy, but Garcetti and Alarcon found a way: by haggling over questionable street service bills that have increased tenfold over the past seven years.


Alarcon asserts her authority over Sunset Junction

Will 219 NIMBYs kill Sunset Junction?
"All we need is a loan for a week"
Despite legacy, board hijacks Sunset Junction

One percent solution discussion revs up

A One-Percent Solution for Neighborhood Councils

Is it time to pull the plug?

Commercial trumps residential on NC boards across LA
Outreach, power under scrutiny at NC forum

Alarcon asserts her authority over Sunset Junction

"No provision of waiver"--Alarcon intervew at Echo Park Patch.

"It's all over the Internet that they found the money, but at some point they need to touch base with me," Public Works Board President Andrea Alarcon told the LA Times about Sunset Junction organizers yesterday.

On Monday, she admonished organizers for not paying enough fast enough, and threatened not to permit the venerable festival if they didn't come up with more money before today.

In July and also this month, Alarcon's Public Works Department Commission received letters from the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council urging the Board to not to permit the festival unless several conditions were met. The neighborhood council, like many other neighborhood councils, is dominated by a local Chamber of Commerce and does little outreach into residential neighborhoods.


Will 219 NIMBYs kill Sunset Junction?

"All we need is a loan for a week"
Despite legacy, board hijacks Sunset Junction

One percent solution discussion revs up

A One-Percent Solution for Neighborhood Councils

Is it time to pull the plug?

Commercial trumps residential on NC boards across LA
Outreach, power under scrutiny at NC forum

Will 219 NIMBYs kill Sunset Junction?

Early last month and early this month, the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council presented the City's Board of Commissioners of the Department of Public Works and Councilman Eric Garcetti's office two resolutions it had made on its own.

One of the resolutions, made in July, was to request that no permits be granted to the nationally-known Sunset Junction Street Fair unless previous debts and current fees be paid in full. The other resolution was to declare that the Street Fair should not be fenced off.

It was these two arguments that the Board of Commissioners of the Department of Public Works and Eric Garcetti's office fell back on when electing to not issue permits to Sunset Junction Street Fair yesterday.

Is it a case of NIMBY's intruding when a broader interest is obviously at stake, even as the representational legitimacy of Neighborhood Councils is being increasingly called into question?

The Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce had also asked several of SJ that it reported had never been answered, and, because of its inside position on the Neighborhood Council, took its complaints to the board. The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council committee also passed a resolution on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce to address some of its questions. The Fair responded, making the motion moot.

The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council's Governmental Affairs Committee co-chair is Paul Michael Neuman--who is also Councilman Paul Koretz's communications director.

Speaking as a Neighborhood Council executive, Neuman told me today that "Certainly, there's a lot of conversation inside of City Hall as well as outside of City Hall." He added that "The question of paying fees is a question that affects a lot of people. It's not a simplistic matter. What is simple, though, is that money's owed."

Two-hundred and nineteen (219) people voted in the last Silver Lake Neighborhood Council election. The board's votes on both motions to kill Sunset Junction unless certain conditions are met were both unanimous.

Ironically, Neuman complained to me about Sunset Junction's "lacking efforts in community outreach."

But he was also quick to point out that he's had good concert experiences there too.

"I've seen great concerts there. I'm glad I saw John Cale there. I saw Camper van Beethoven there. You can quote me on that," Neuman told me.


"All we need is a loan for a week"

Despite legacy, board hijacks Sunset Junction

One percent solution discussion revs up

A One=Percent Solution for Neighborhood Councils

Is it time to pull the plug?

Commercial trumps residential on NC boards across LA
Outreach, power under scrutiny at NC forum

"All we need is a loan for a week"

Maybe you can see her down your street. Maybe not.

"People need this festival, they're counting on it for their livelihoods," Sunset Junction booker Jennifer Tefft told the LA Times yesterday. "All we need is a loan for a week. We'll have every penny of this after the festival."

And so it has come to this, according to the Hollywood Reporter:

"Organizers of the Sunset Junction street fair issued a plea for donations late Monday night as they face the possibility that the Los Angeles event may be canceled, less than a week before it is set to begin."

Thus City Council, a key commission, and and a new generation of City Hall finger waggers are one day closer to shutting down Sunset Junction and embarrassing LA as a can't-do city once again.

No bands have canceled yet, but they are likely to start cancelling Wednesday if the hat-passing doesn't pan out and the City stands firm on the threat not to issue street permits to the event.

Whatever happens at Sunset and Santa Monica this weekend, the City's shakedown and prospective takedown of Sunset Junction Street Fair promoters yesterday demonstrated what lies in the hearts of a new generation of City stakeholder: an indifference not only to the festival but to the economic outcome of cancelling it too.

A communications director for one City Councilman derided PBR-toting "hipsters" and called SJ "an ironic bbq." One of Councilman Koretz's planners found it "amazing SJ cannot pay City fees...but can pay some of the most expensive attorneys, lobbyists and consultants in town to represent them"--as though that money doesn't count because it goes to people in suits. And Rachel Kane, who writes a blog exclusively devoted to bashing the merchandise of Forever 21--one of the City's most successful fashion ventures of the past three decades, and one of the few mature fashion entities that hasn't yet completely fled LA after topping a billion in annual sales--says "Sunset Junction is not some sacred cow to me. It could disappear forever and I wouldn't care."

None of these people are as old as SJ itself is, but they all are chortling at the prospect of its demise--mainly because of the steep ticket prices, which many feel are now out of reach of the general public, and also because of the distance between festival and community, which they feel has never been greater.

Especially representative of the Generation Next's anti-SJ zeitgeist is Andrea Alarcón, the Villaraigosa-appointed president of the City's Board of Public Works.

Daughter of Councilman Richard Alarcón, Alarcón hija scolded the promoters Sunset Junction from her lofty commission perch yesterday, asking them, "Do you know what that $400,000 could do for this city?"

Well, some of us do. It could pay her dad's salary for two years and two months, for instance. Or, it could extend to every man woman and child in the City of Los Angeles...a...dime.

It could pay for Raman Raj's disability, which the City continues to pay even six months after he was fired.

In fact, with a $7 billion budget, the City spends $400K every...half an hour. Even between 2 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. With a $7 billion budget, the City spends $19 million every day.

Addressing concerns about the degree to which SJ has become a community pariah, the City and the community created the Silver Lake Jubilee two years ago, a more truly neighborhood event, allowing Sunset Junction to continue down its own raucous but economically viable path more or less independently of the community it originally serviced, and availing a Silver Lake event that local bands could headline.

If the new breed succeeds in shutting down SJ, they will have accomplished what scourges as varied and menacing as community moralizers, privatization, and even the AIDS epidemic itself was unable to do in previous decades. Unfortunately, this fresh economic insouciance looks a lot like the kind of economic shortsightedness exhibited by Councilmembers who ran so many businesses out of town over the past two decades.

To me, the City has a lot of nerve, after cavalierly spending its way into its present crisis throughout the Villaraigosa mayoralty, to now jawbone a group of private promoters who bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to the City with their moderately felonious two-day fest. SJ is a headache, and an expensive one, but canceling this one would be a devastating blow to LA's image through the region and the state--again.

And even if the event now seems abundantly disconnected from its roots, it is not entirely so. It's still possible--and hopefully will remain possible this weekend--for a woman to walk down a couple of blocks, pay $25, enjoy a full afternoon, take in an evening set by kd lang--and recall, with perchance some wistfulness, what brought her to Silver Lake in the first place.

Despite legacy, Board hijacks Sunset Junction

I can't keep the festival going--but would you like another sharrow?

Alice Walton reports that the Board of Public Works has hijacked the Sunset Junction festival, slated for this weekend, threatening to cancel the whole enchilada if festival organizers don't pay what's "owed" the City.

If I may quote myself on Sunset Junction's legacy:

The neighborhood's political and literary bona fides are hallowed. The fabled Black Cat protest at Sunset Junction the neighborhood anticipated far more iconic Stonewall riot by over two years. A wikipedia footnote somewhere asserts: "The event is named for the Black Cat Bar, formerly at 3909 Sunset Blvd between Sanborn and Hyperion Avenues, a location that had been a gay bar periodically since the 1940’s."

The Sunset Junction Street Fair, aware of the legacy, commenced thirty-one years ago as a way to feature the local community's performing arts and culture, and itself became the kind of LGBT icon that the Black Cat protest never did.

Later, of course, X played Sunset Junction. Chaka Khan. The not-Diana-Ross Supremes. Ten years ago: Silver Lake icon Elliot Smith, whose memorial graffiti wall still stands nearby.

But the City wants to shut down the festival this year over a piece of change that couldn't keep Eric Garcetti's staff fed for two days. If you do a cost analysis, the money truly "owed" the City in fees is applied to Public Works salaries that may ordinarily be paid to City workers anyway, whether they work setting up the festival or engage in other ordinary weekend activities. There are some extraordinary costs attached to the festival, but Public Works hasn't provided an accounting of these to the public. The real cost of the festival to the City is thought to be under $25,000.

The Times also has an earlier item up.

That's Council President Eric Garcetti, who's bringing a 90-unit insaniplex to Sunset Junction, presumably for a lot more than this piddling fee dispute will garner the City.

Playing politics in Studio City

"The City Attorney has spoken at our Board meetings in the past and is always welcome," Studio City Neighborhood Council president John Walker explains to me in an email about the sudden appearance of Carmen Trutanich at the STNC board meeting last Wednesday, a Palinesque appearance which threw the event off-stride, according to a report.

If you read that as a tad evasive as to how chest-puffin' Nuch actually came to visit the board on the very day that both Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Councilmember Paul Krekorian would be there, so do I. Walker didn't say whether he extended an invite to Nuch specifically or tipped him off about the appearance of the other two politicians, or whether Trutanich simply decided to crash the event on his own. "Trutanich just came to say 'hi,'" Studio City Patch reported earlier.

At the event, Yaroslavsky told a story about how a constituent became tearful, hugging the Supervisor, because of...the Orange Line, which has made her life complete. Now the woman can get from Long Beach to Valley Village because of Yaroslavsky's adroit public transportation planning. Many of us get similarly weepy about not being able to get within two miles of LAX on the Green Line--but who needs to go to LAX when you can get to Valley Village in two hours?

"I have put together a series of guest speakers of both declared and undeclared candidates for Mayor, to come and address the stakeholders of Studio City," Walker further explains. The next visitor in the series, which resumes in September, will be Controller Wendy Greuel.


Circling the Wagons in Studio City

Austin Beutner toughs up

: Austin Beutner, a novice to politics but a veteran of many wars in private and public sectors alike, is tougher than you may know, and ready for anything in this upcoming Mayor's race.

I have to confess that even after ten minutes, he fairly shocked me. It was more like a boxing match than an interview. Not that we argued, but he was very feisty, very...tough, in a word.

I don't expect this in an Ivy League multimillionaire. I even say, very early on, "You're way tougher than I imagined."

"Well...yeah," he says.

He gets feisty right away, over his cheese plate and my macchiato at The Farm, because I ask him a question about his investor days, and I thought it was an innocent enough one: "Did you have a financial guru, and who was it?" He states a couple of names (really answering the way you'd expect of someone who is the school's best boy, first mentioning his dad, arriving on the boat, &c.) but then he quickly reminds me that he had all this civic and government work under his belt too, including work creating jobs in post-Soviet Russia for the Clinton administration.

So I ditch my notes and ask him, very early:

"Are you sure you want to do this? I mean, running for Mayor? This is going to be a really bruising campaign. Consultants are already trying this and that out on you."

Yeah, he shrugs. No problem.

"No, I see you as this polite guy. But two weeks before the election, they're going to be hitting you with ads, tv ads..."

He insists, "Yeah, doesn't bother me." He's just shrugging. "They want to do that, they can, nothing there. Won't matter." He was just unfazed at the prospect of getting roughed up.

And this is the bottom line opinion I form about Austin Beutner, candidate for Mayor of Los Angeles in 2013: he seems half like the most confident guy in LA--just tremendous self-confidence--and half like the most politically naive guy in LA. And probably, in truth, he's very much of both, but a notoriously quick study.

Beutner's top topic, predictably, is jobs for LA. He says the real unemployment rate is likely between 18-20%. "That's a five-alarm fire," he says.

Potential civil disturbance level?

"Sure," he says. "Look what's happening around the world. We're coming up on the twentieth anniversary of the riot. We have to make sure it won't happen again."

It's natural to go from "tough guy" talk to talk about his consultant in the race, Ace Smith--a tough guy too. I ask him how frequently they talked--once a week?

"Oh, far more frequently."

Once a day?

"That's more like it."

Sure, he knows former Mayor Richard Riordan. He brings up Riordan's endorsement gladly. But don't try to identify him as a Riordan protege.

So, then, when the former Mayor went to the Wall Street Journal to say that we were on the verge of bankruptcy--did that help the City or hurt it?

"I'm sure, he was trying to help," he insists. "Have you seen the City budget, even this one they passed? It's a mess. They say it's balanced. It's not balanced. Do you know what a 'clearance rate' is?'

Beutner goes on to explain how the Police Department is using "bankable hours" that are paid out in subsequent years to balance the present budget. It annoys him.

He defends the AEG/Farmer's Field potential deal, and not just on the grounds that the City needs a football team. He tells me that a stadium with a roof will enable an NCAA Final Four to come to LA. "Those people come for a whole week, and they spend like drunken sailors," he says.

We talk a lot about financial stuff in the City, and about regional projects, transit hub stuff, transpo stuff in general. Beutner remains just as intense, no matter the topic. He is simply not a smarmy politician like Riordan, that's for sure. His language is the all-action, assertive banker's--"We've got all this transpo money, sooner or later it'll get in the ground." His conversation style is a lot like an investment banker's--someone in a hurry to prove his mettle--someone who has to outflank a prospective client on their own business--someone who has to know everything you know and a little more on top of that.

So I ask something that I try to ask a lot of civic figures. "Well, would simply borrowing a lot of money be so bad?"

Beutner says, "Yeah, it would be. We don't want to do that."

I say, "Well, New York borrowed its way out of its catastrophic debt in the '70's."

"No they didn't," he snaps back.

"They didn't? Sure they did," I say. "They borrowed from labor pension funds."

"No," he says. "Basically, they restructured their tax base."

We'll have to leave that one for the historians.

About halfway through the interview, I note to him that he doesn't smile a lot.

"Two of our last three Mayors have had big smiles," I say. "The third didn't, and lost an incumbent race."

He breaks a small smile himself and says, "Well, I do like to laugh." Later he explains that "leading LA is serious stuff."

He doesn't like to talk about the Mayor much. "You'll have to ask him," he'll say, when I ask him how the Mayor might see something. But he will acknowledge that the Mayor may have a broader role in some civic disputes than Villaraigosa was willing to take on--for instance in the Writer's strike.

"Look, the Mayor's office is the biggest bully pulpit in the region. The Mayor doesn't have to take a side, but he does have to acknowledge that this is bad for the City and work to solve something like that. It was devastating [to Hollywood]."

Should he get involved in, then, say, the sale of the Los Angeles Times?

"Yeah. Here's this civic organ, the whole City has a stake in it..."

I interrupt and ask him about Sam Zell.

"He's a corporate raider..."

I start to laugh, noting Austin Beutner is calling someone a corporate raider.

"...who left behind a bankrupt business," he adds.

To me, that's audacious--doesn't he have to look to this publication for even-handed treatment?--so I read it back to him.

"You really want to say that?" I ask.

"Yeah," he says. "Look, I would call him up and tell him that." As far as political identity, he doesn't mince words about his independence either.

We talk a little about the CRA. I ask him something I've been trying to prove to editors since last year (and that they seem to have a hard time getting their arms around): that at some time in the Villaraigosa administration, the CRA transformed from a property redevelopment agency to a job creation agency.

He agrees. "It's always going to be a mix, you have to have effort in both, and sometime you need one more than the other."

So when did it start? When Essel was appointed?

"Earlier," he says. "Cecilia?" I asked. "Probably in between them," he said. Well, in between them, there was nobody. It was Antonio's agency--and Beutner's.

I try him on culture. He's on all these boards, CalArts, the Broad, &c. I ask if he has a favorite sculptor. He names an obscure one in York, Maine--Sumner Winebaum. Beutner retains ties to New England from his Dartmouth days.

I also ask him about music. This is more solid ground for him. He played cello as a teenager, then was a bassist in a jazz band in college. Cello! Tough guys play cello--who knew?

I asked him if he goes to church. Whoops. "No, I'm Jewish," he says. "I was bar mitzvah'ed, but I don't go. Oh, my wife is Protestant." He doesn't indicate he's very much involved with religion in general--though he has just arrived from a speaking engagement at a Korean Christian church.

He tells me twice that he's an enormous sports fan, and reads the sports page first every morning. TJ Simers is his favorite local voice.

Even describing his bicycle accident and trauma ward experience, he was filled with panache and toughness: "When people die, it's not The Waltons," he says, of another patient in the trauma center who arrived when he did and did not make it.

I say "I don't see you as a guy who goes much down to the Elks' Club to tell them what's up with your new venture. But now--maybe you are doing stuff like that?"

He says he actually likes retail politics.

The next appointment--two more Korean businessmen--are waiting for him, and it's time to go. He tells me to be sure to spell his name right.

Circling the wagons in Studio City

Mercury's still in retrograde, and it's a bad one. That's the only thing that explains three top local Anglo politicians descending on Studio City Neighborhood Council last night. But Zev Yaroslavsky and Carmen Trutanich both indeed did show, unexpectedly, according to Studio City Patch. They dropped in on Paul Krekorian, also there, who had been on the bill for weeks to address a planning issue.

The NC has long been Nuch's community group of choice, a dependably lite-right, dependably docile community group to whom Nuch (or anyone) can assure "We're doing the right things for the right reasons" and get away with it.

The two interlopers, Zev and Nuch, were largely there to note that Studio City under the Latino-dominated County redistricting plan is, like Gaul, slated to be divided into three parts.

In the spirit of troika, the pols all posed for three-quarters of a Mt. Rushmore-like photo. That's Zev rocking the Jerry Garcia tie; the other two opted for repps.

"I have no idea why Nuch was there," added one City Hall denizen.

I Love LA...fotos

Z-dogg and V-Doll @ Venice Beach (hours ago)

J-stien and Bud Selig at Dodger Stadium. (2009)

Bev and my wife (with bridal bouquet) at Union Station (2010).

Mayor wows unsuspecting scribes in Sacto

Tony and Eli, back in the day; photo by Eric Richardson.

It's hard to believe anyone, even the most determined publicity hound, could find so much free cosmopolitan print by showing up at a cow-town's press club, script in hand, and patronizing whomever showed up, but that's what Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa accomplished yesterday, when he used the shaky pulpit of the Sacramento Press Club to assail Californians and especially corporations for not paying enough taxes.

Apparently Hizzoner couldn't make any actual news in various Sacto corridors, so he ran to the nearest sleepy media outpost to try to trot some out--but, damn, it mostly worked. Steve Lopez completely swooned.

The thing that is most mind-boggling, however, is that Villaraigosa--who to my knowledge has never made it to the LA Press Club for such a conference, and who failed to insert or involve himself when the Times itself was sold to an out-of-town, bottom-fishing street-urchin in 2007--was now tossing off platitudes galore to print, suddenly understanding "what you're up against as reporters and editors."

And those up against the wall returned the favor: the former fishwrap of record actually called Villaraigosa's talk an "address." Ordinarily, we witness addresses on battlefields or before Congress, not in two-bit media rooms.

Maybe it was the Mayor wishing Tim Rutten well as a blogger that elevated this talk to statesman status?

It wasn't only the Times; the cow-town chat was picked up in other unusual quarters, including the Wall Street Journal, where it was quickly denounced as tedious bolshevik cant.