ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - A good drama keeps the storylines rolling beyond their natural life, extending the pleasure of the lack of resolution.
It would not be satisfying if the first time the audience meets a villain, he or she were automatically apprehended.
That's called justice, and the subject of a different upcoming column.
In the real world and on daytime dramas, many of which have been canceled over the years, good material gets dragged out for as long as necessary or possible, depending upon the path chosen by the Executive Producer.
Apparently, the City of Los Angeles has decided to post Youtube videos of old city council meetings just when modern-day, ultra-short council meetings are ending.
After one of the briefest meetings held by the Los Angeles City Council in recent memory, a video popped up that seemed a bit dated. For one thing, the council president was a younger, even more handsome, Eric Garcetti, and I was sucked into the show that was very energetic, and managed as something like a pageant.
First, up was a single mother, Martha P. Swiller, who came to the table with her infant and was praised and approved to serve on the commission for Children Youth and Families. [In 2022, the city is building out a similarly themed department.]
After some light, friendly questioning and warm rubber stamping, at about 35:50 seconds into the Youtube from this March 22, 2006 City Council meeting, Andrea A. Alarcon takes a seat at the table.
The crowd goes wild. The lights dim, all council members rise.
Led by a feisty Wendy Greuel, a spectacular pageant from yesteryear (and today) like besties Herb Wesson and Jose Huizar, who who were there.
A young, Alex Padilla, who is now the Senator from California, is rolled out. For twenty minutes, the council interviews Alarcon about her appointment by the mayor to the Board of Transportation Commissioners.
Alarcon is a super star, and the boys ate her up. She'd arrived a tad late, due to a broken down car on the way to her hearing.
Her bonafides were breathtaking, she went to Georgetown, worked on hate crimes in DC... fought domestic violence in LA, was appointed by Gray Davis, fought an anti-rico campaign... and worked as Special Assistant to the AG, Bill Lockyear.
Let me say this, Ms. Alarcon's TV Q rating, would be something like Mary Tyler-Moores in her heyday, if channel 35 did testing on characters and their popularity.
Dennis Zine bound forward, and gently at first, but then more forcefully rolled out a few complaints about the horrible traffic and the horrible commute. Zeitgeisty, even today, I thought.
A much younger, Greig Smith jumped up and gushed that Andrea, worked in his office as a high school student... "this charming young lady created a 50-page community service guide that we still use today!"
Tom LaBonge asked Alarcon about the cross streets in the valley, Roscoe, Victory... and signalization for the right speeds. [Holy crap, I thought...we are still mowing people down on those cross streets today.] "If you are trying to blend into 35 mph it's one thing, if it's 50 you are going to cause a problem," Labonge said.
After rambling on for a few minutes, he handed off to Andrea, "Anything on your mind?"
"I want to increase our profitability... " she said, "grow the funds to make good investments all around."
Padilla, now a Senator from California was very proud of Alarcon's northeast valley genetic leadership... and hoping to work on quality of life issues.
Ed Reyes talked about the DASH bus... at rail stations. He said, he wanted to build it out sensible... mapping out the loops, capturing riders near the station who will opt-in. He sounded much smarter than the others.
Alarcon, said, "A little known fact, is that I used to walk several miles to the bus stop, as a single mom, wait in cold rainy weather..." [This was way back when, when it rained]. "If there is anything I can do to improve DASH, I would be happy to do that..."
Reyes was concerned about the cost of gas. Bill Rosendahl called Alarcon a Champ because she "appreciates Sacramento."
And then Andrea Alarcon stuck the landing, "public safety is integral to transportation."
The correction box:
One young teenager that I know, who is certainly not pigeonholeable in any way, admitted to a younger athlete who looks up to her, that she does not care so much if people use the "she" or "they" pronoun when addressing her. For this young person, it's "speaker's choice."
Another younger person, this one more of a musician than an athlete, had a gig last week that went very well. I would give this very tall young man, high grades in the category of musical imagination and surprisingly, pronoun awareness!
Thanks to a teenage sibling who lectures frequently on the appropriate use of pronouns, the musician lad has become keenly aware of the correct and incorrect use of pronouns. He's become an exceptionally thorough corrector. A man after my own heart.
Amusing to have such a young character in the daily drama. He seems distracted or in his own world sometimes, yet should a speaker veer off course and bungle a pronoun, he's quick to fire off a correction "THEY!" or "SHE!" for any misstep.
As an optimist, I'm imagining one day, seated next to the sign language interpreter in a tiny box at the bottom of the mayor's pandemic closeup, a second little box: the correction box! True or False: The Gender Revolution is about less rigid categorization.
Incorrect: It's a 2017 documentary with Katie Couric.
I started working in serialized drama right out of University of Michigan. I wanted to write for David Letterman but you get what you get, and you don't get upset. On arrival at Studio 11 on the NBC Burbank Lot (Ellen, which is ending this week, tapes there), I was asked to organize or get rid of a couple dozen boxes of fan mail, that had piled up in the back of the copy room.
As the entry level Production Assistant PA type, my main function was to run the 82-page television scripts through the Kodak copy machine 82 times and distribute those scripts, once I assembled them to the cast and crew. Easy money. Except for the driving the scripts all over Los Angeles part.
Back then you needed a Thomas Guide, and I quickly got the lay of the land.
I was not comfortable getting rid of the fan mail that my immediate boss suggested I do, so I decided to take the boxes home and read them.
I was 21 years old and virtually alone out in LA. These letters were amazing, I thought. These people who watch our show and evidently really love the show, were writing letters to the show's writers and producers and actors begging for various outcomes.
Virtually every letter contained off-the-charts praise for the romantic storyline featuring Cruz and Eden, played by A Martinez and Marcy Walker. But there were other interesting insights and trends. I decided on my own to put together a fan mail report, based on over one thousand letters -- so the sample would be high enough to seem important.
I flipped through boxes of letters, read them quickly, sometimes while hanging out on the beach, and then made notations in sharpie on the envelopes. Later, I would tally up the results.
When I presented my report to the network, I felt like I was in a movie. Johnny Carson was downstairs.
The network freaked out, in a good way.
They saw this exercise as "grassroots, from the viewers themselves... autentico...."
I was immediately issued an office on the NBC lot and an Apple computer.
I started publishing the Santa Barbara Fan Mail Report and an in-house newsletter while maintaining my other responsibilities delivering scripts and shmoozing the talent for stories to help promote them in the national soap press.
The year, 1985, ten years before the great Zev Yaroslavsky was elected as the County Supervisor in 1994.
Without going too deeply into it, as I became a Producer on the show, I launched a fan club and hosted hundreds of fans at the Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City.
We put on a live show that I co-wrote with the casting director who was married to Fred Roggin of KNBC and we actually got the actors to participate!
My sideways entry into the actual work of managing a soap opera factory was not without drama. I took on the unions, some of my colleagues in the production office were less excited about my meteoric rise.
The message...listen to the people, read their mail, take their comments. There's gold in them thar hills...
Hillside Villas... Tonight!
A choreographed rollout was needed to reframe the dismal city council attendance as a celebration, not an embarrassing humiliating failure. After weeks of accepting virtual testimony from Angelenos, the city council's crass decision to curtail that feature, in favor of a 'mini-mask-mandate' was hurting attendance. (15 Ayes).
City Council needed to prove that people will come out in force to their dreary council meetings, regardless of the one-of-a-kind inhibitory mask mandate.
Time for another episode of "Hillside Villas" on Channel 35.
On Friday, Nury Martinez, the Council President, invited a rowdy group of tenants desperate to stay in their federally subsidized housing at Hillside Villas.
The very community, who have been ritually abused by a man who is alleged by many, to be a heinous slumlord!
The prayer, for City Council to vote "yes" on taking the slumlord's property via eminent domain!
This would seal the quid, the pro and the quo, in one fell swoop.
Once the council voted for item 12 to save Hillside Villas the people could vote for Gil Cedillo and all the rest of the HELPFUL and SUPPORTIVE city council.
Thom Botz, the owner and his daughter were not in attendance, but sent in a guy-friday to read a prepared statement, at the end.
But first, the drama.
For broad context, there is a pitched battle between Gil Cedillo, the incumbent, and Eunisses Hernandez, a very serious challenger for the seat of power in Council District 1.
Cedillo, who raised more money than anyone on the council in 2018 (See fun Chart Video) is not a big fan of debates.
He prefers to lord over his opponents, and on Friday's episode of "Hillside Villas", he appeared to be in full control of the situation.
Eunisses Hernandez, the better choice, helped the county board of supervisors launch its ambitious and confusing diversion program.
Cedillo, tapped the mic and told the President, "Madame President, my staff tells me that in addition to calling 12 special... staff is highlighting some amendments, and Herb Wesson is seconding."
The speakers clad in red t-shirts lined up and told the truth, about being underserved and having their rent jacked up so high.
Council President Martinez said, "you'll all get your chance to speak" as if she was talking to sixth graders.
Adela Cortez is no sixth-grader. More like a power broker. As she walked up to the mic, a deafening chant of "Si se puede"
"Numero doce... " Cortez said she'd lived at Hillsides for 34 years, "we have depression and anxiety, we are poor. " She said her rent had gone from "$1084 to $1450 and now $2600. I don't have money..." Boos of support.
Another speaker, "I live there for 26 years, Chinatown is my neighborhood that I love.. my rent was $1063 in 2019.
Alfredo Espinosa... "26 years, my home... my neighbors and famiglia... for a lot of decades. The expiring covenants are a policy failure," he said.
Martinez seemed like she had someplace better to be. She took a moment to rebuke a woman who had not filled out a speaker form on the kiosk. [Why a "covid" exchange machine in the back is preferable to virtual testimony is not clear.]
"Seccione ocho" came up a lot, because the list to get housing with those federal vouchers that way is ridiculously long.
One speaker said, that the council voting yes on item 12 would give us a good reason to vote for you again. "I don't want to offend you, we are asking for help. 100,000 thanks for the vote you will give to us." The Ethics Commission, who watch all episodes of "Hillsides," took note.
Several speakers layed into Cedillo, "you told us you would help us and we have not seen you....So please help us. No mas mentiras por favor."
Several speakers talked about the outrageous parking fees: "(not in my lease) then $100 parking fee, I had a stroke. Why not $35? or $50? You can see the wrong mindset of this man... he is not very nice at all."
Leslie Hernandez said, "we have been hunting down whoever... we are not asking for nothing... you guys, represent... that you work for us. We have been doing half of the work that you have to do... your staff... everything. I am so fucking pissed off that it got to this fucking point ...we have to scream for you guys to listen for us."
Had there been virtual testimony, screaming would not be a problem.
"Stop ignoring us... I'm talking directly to you Gil Cedillo..."
Myra Perez immediately started crying, "I have ninos... I work every day but it's impossible. I need to ask here the people here are asking... we are all asking... we want our children and grandchildren to be able to pay the rent, I have to work all day to pay this unjust rent just to pay my children.
"Un momentito... " Council President interrupted her.
" I have depression and I am stressed...one son was "terminated and is under depression..." one son is helping her... one committed (I think she meant attempted) suicide because the rent went so high, that we can't afford it. I saved my son to commit suicide. Because we don't want to be homeless, especially because this is America. We have a good nation."
Melissa Reyes, got major cheers, hoots and hollers. "Gil Cedillo has been doing nothing about this for years... now he is on re-election."
Monica Ruiz said she'd been there for 24 years... "no es justo" I went from paying $1000 to $3000, my daughter keeps asking what are we going to do if dad can't work... are we going to be homeless?
One woman said, "we brought you a plan to buy the building and save the day and make the rent low again."
There was a sustained cry about how rude and dismissive the council members were being by ignoring their pleas.
"If everyone could stop being on the laptop and look us in the eyes..."
"Cedillo has the courage to talk to somebody else... like he doesn't care. My mom is Lisa Ramirez, she started the fight ... she contacted the news... unfortunately she died of covid. What we've been through, three years. Fighting, very rough... not only for me, but for everybody here today. These kids, these seniors... please give us your vote.
Never give up... Hillside villa is our home, we are not just neighbors we are family. We are asking, we are not begging you guys."
Then Council President Martinez banged her gavel, calmed the crowd and told them to listen to the other side for two minutes. The crowd erupted. If it was another group, the disruptors would be arrested, but this was the home team, in a way. The Council President calmed the crowd.
The man said, "at present, Hillside has 71 section 8 vouchers. That's out of 124...none of those people were effected by covenant expiration. Only 37 units are effected by the expiration. Of those, 10 have signed new contracts. 27 units... with section 8."
The crowd was very upset and calling him a liar... If they could just hold on for a few more minutes, Nury and Papa Cedillo would save the day.
Cut to commercial:
Cedillo closed it with the recommendation to initiate the process, part of the very extensive process... of eminent domain. Curren Price and wife Del Richardson of CD9 could explain better -- she's in that line of work. As a policy, the city shouldn't have to over pay-off wealthy landowners to house the poor. The rich people should help the poor, like Caruso, who gets credit for sticking his subliminal ads on the city's youtube site.
Life inside a Tiny House:
The New York Times Sunday Paper had a special Kids Section called the "Tiny" issue. Of course, the "invisible nemesis" of Covid, was addressed.
The particles that carry covid are so tiny they can float in the air, which means the virus can spread when people breathe or sneeze or sing or give public comment.
It's a fun read, though there is a disclaimer that the material should not be read by adults.
I was intrigued and grossed out by the fun, breezy review of the millions of microbes that live in a house. Even a tiny house.
There was such a section about "The fun, weird, and slightly cramped details of living in a pint-size home."
Squeezing five people into a house about the size of two parking spaces... is ambitious, but one youngster said, "It doesn't stop us from doing anything."
Lex Roman, who may or may not be all grown up, but looked into that, and noted that there are things you can do in a home that you can’t do in an LA City Council “tiny home village.”
- bring all your stuff
- not be searched every day
- have your own key
- have a kitchen & a bathroom
- come and go as you want
- have friends & family over
- go to the hospital w/o losing your bed
Don't tell the children.
There was a banner along the bottom of the page listing some "Tiny joys," One of which was, "a plot twist you didn't see coming."
There was one other section that intrigued me, "My job makes me feel tiny..." about people whose jobs make them feel small.
For example, TNT reporter Allie LaForce interviews NBA players, and so understandably feels tiny.
A whale scientist feels tiny. A guy who works on aircraft carriers... feels tiny.
And here's the plot twist, a public speaker at a City Council meeting almost always feels tiny, thanks to Herb Wesson and Nury Martinez.
(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch. The opinions expressed by Eric Preven are solely his and not the opinions of CityWatch)