CityWatch, Dec 21, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 101
Several years ago, my wife and her theatre group participated in a Met Theatre fundraiser that consisted of staging Shakespeare's entire body of work in one continuous, non-stop performance that went around the clock for several days. "As good luck would have it," Enci's company took to the boards at 2 am and with enthusiasm that belied the late hour, delivered their leg of the Bard's marathon.
As the last line was spoken, I stood to my feet and rigorously applauded, offering up a one-man standing ovation. To my surprise, they responded by returning the applause and thanking me. They later explained that it's one thing to perform, but all is for naught if not for the most important element, an audience that connects and engages and responds.
As I look back over this past year and think about the many events and meetings, the projects and the protests, the victories and the losses, it all begins to blur.
There have been inspirational occasions such as Park[ing] Day LA and the Neighborhood Council Summit, there have been challenges to the status quo such as BudgetLA and the Safe Streets Campaign, and there have been the many incidents and tragedies that have brought us together in shock and outrage.
Through it all, members of the public write letters, make phone calls, file Community Impact Statements, and go to meeting after meeting, all in hopes that a couple of minutes of public comment will complement the work of others and add up to something that will improve the quality of life in their community.
There have been times that I have questioned the value of public participation in the civic process. Especially after waiting eight hours for 2 minutes of public comment, only to have the item tabled for another meeting.
Along the way, I've written articles, spoken at meetings, traveled to Sacramento, and appealed to reason, only to watch motions get rubber-stamped with a unanimous and unquestioning vote, bouncing from Commission to Committee to Council agenda without skipping a beat.
I've sat alone in Council Chambers and questioned the folly of the fight, only to experience an amazing and powActive Imageerful phenomenon, the participation of an engaged and enthusiastic audience.
It was during a long City Council agenda and I was about to give up and leave when I received a text message from someone who was listening to the proceedings on CityPhone. They offered some advice, they urged me on, and most importantly, they thanked me for speaking up.
As I walk precincts and talk to voters, I meet people who greet me as an old friend and refer to radio interviews with Kevin James and to Channel 35 broadcasts of City Council meetings. It's especially encouraging to know that at those moments when I'm filled with doubt, there are people listening and watching and counting on somebody to represent them.
Perhaps the most touching feedback I get is from the families of people who have died on our streets.
After Gwendolyn Coleman was tragically killed by a DASH operator as she crossed the street, I received this message from her son; "I'm writing you to just say thank you for giving my mother a voice when no one accountable for her death seems to really care. It means a lot to my sisters and I that even though you didn't know her you still took the time to speak for her."
When Julia Siegler was killed on Sunset Boulevard, her father wrote; "More tragedies like Julia’s are inevitable unless citizens rally to return Sunset Blvd – at least sections of it – into a neighborhood-compatible thoroughfare...Thank you for your thoughtful and upsetting piece."
As I look back over the events of this past year, I realize that the circumstances add up to some victories, some defeats, and a load of stalemates.
Some folks take me to task and sent a message of "There you go again!" Others have enjoyed the journey and written "This is the best editorial written about our city!!!!"
In looking back, I'm grateful that we've connected and in looking forward, I'm grateful for the role that you play and I hope you'll keep reading!
(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net. Disclosure: Box is also a candidate for 4th District Councilman.)