VOICES--I went to a number of City Hall hearings last year. Either to speak up or to back other people’s play.
Always attending is a bevy of free speech performers who are a bit hard to take. They get to rant for two minutes, for starters, at “Public Comments,” when the hearings begin, and then they always manage to spit something out before each agenda item. They get a minute then. They wander off topic a lot and get warned, but they have their say.
They perform as individuals but are unanimous in their contempt for authority. They soar from venue to venue like a flock of crows: City Council, County Board of Supervisors, Public Works, cawing and clawing, heckling and jeckling.
They do not hesitate to tell a distinguished Councilmember that, in their estimate, he is a lying piece of shit or a fucking retard (Their words not mine). One of them wears a disheveled suit and looks like a disbarred lawyer. He seems to be on top of his facts.
Another holds soliloquies through a hand puppet resembling a lamb. A foul-mouthed lamb. The City keeps trying to shut these guys down with new rules and regulations, but Free Speech prevails.
I am offended by these disruptive droogs even though I, too, am quick to bristle at authority. But they are often pretty sharp.
Once during a large City Council meeting, with hardly any standing room, an alarm started ringing.
The Councilmembers seemed discomforted and their aides came to consult with them. Cell phones were employed to determine what was going on and to seek verification. Finally, after about ten minutes they asked everybody to leave the Council room until they could determine what was up. We did.
When we returned and started the show up again, one of the Voices of Anarchy started right in.
Why, he wanted to know, was the City Council unable to respond in the manner that every first grade teacher and child knows? An alarm means there is an emergency. In an emergency you immediately stop what you are doing, leave, and go and do something else. He said the Councilmembers were incapable of providing good leadership. He had them dead to rights.
I feel the same way about the City of Los Angeles’s attitude toward the survival of our trees. They have worked up the perfect set of excuses to cut down our trees, get some compensation for doing so, and tell us that their hands are tied, and that it ain’t their fault.
We are told:
- Trees on private property are disposable. They are ‘’Owned” Kind of like slaves were.
- Public Works widens the streets and the highways for growth. Always growth. If we stop growing we die. Adam Smith says so.
- The sidewalks must be leveled out, and the interfering trees destroyed, because we are losing big money in lawsuits when people trip, and because the Federally mandated Americans With Disabilities Act insists upon it. However: Were they in the same City as I was last summer?
Was I the only one who was bowled over by the heat? Was I the only one driven into my house like a bug scurrying under a leaf for shade?
Have they noticed what is going on around the country? The world?
Are we going to continue these next couple of years with Public Works and Private Development destroying our only protection from the heat and the sun: our trees? And then be bewildered at the vast denudation?
We must pass emergency legislation to:
- Take or buy the trees from the property owners. Like our government compensated Northern state slave holders who fought on the Union side.
- Scale back growth.
- Get better lawyers. We can live with uneven sidewalks. We can’t live without our mature trees. The disabled will understand. They don’t want to get baked either.
The Alarm bell is ringing.
(Hugh Kenny is a community activist living in the Los Angeles area.)