DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - People in Los Angeles have a hard time connecting with government. There are many reasons for this, ranging from the Byzantine nature of dealing with City Hall to a feeling that politicians care little about the average Joe.
Some elected leaders try to resolve this with social media, using Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to connect with those who vote and the other 77% of city residents.
Each elected official also has an official website. I recently spent some time perusing what the 15 council members have posted online, and in addition to a flotilla of self-congratulations, I found some interesting tidbits. Several council members have impressive websites that engage the community. Others have, well, let’s call it something else.
Here are seven curious things I learned about city council members from their websites.
Paul Koretz Loves Animals, Needs a Calendar: Koretz, who represents the Westside’s Fifth District, is well known as a lover of animals. The top of his bio page asks visitors to “Adopt a Pet Today.” Scroll down and you learn that he has introduced “landmark” animal welfare initiatives related to banning cat declawing, outlawing puppy mills and stopping goat juggling (I made one of those up).
If only Koretz could keep track of dates as efficiently as he prevents cat declawing. On Thursday, May 29, the home page of his website, under “Recent Community News,” had the teaser, “Tonight, February 26: City Budget 101.” As if to make sure that the budget info wasn’t lonely in being three months out of date, the line below warned visitors to be wary of Jamzilla… which took place Feb. 14-18.
Did I mention that this was on his front page?
Making Koretz Look Current: First District City Councilman Gil Cedillo is fairly active on Facebook and Twitter with community-oriented news. However, he seems to have forgotten his city website. The most recent item on his News page is from, egads, Aug. 15, 2013. Visit his Events page and you’ll be fully prepared for his “Listening Tour.” All you need is a time machine — the tour stop highlighted at the top of the page took place on Aug. 22, 2013.
Give Her a Year, Websites Take Time: Nury Martinez was sworn in to represent Siberia’s Sixth District (sorry, I meant the San Fernando Valley’s Sixth District) on Aug. 1, 2013. She must be incredibly busy doing government stuff, because 10 months later her website has an introductory message, a bio, a contact page, one community-oriented page and, uh, nothing else.
I realize it takes about 273,000 programmer hours to create a website these days and that the city doesn’t have an Information and Technology Department, but — hey wait, none of that is true. Thanks to modern software, a drunk chimpanzee can build a website in a couple of hours, and even if an inebriated ape isn’t available, the city has a lot of highly paid technical staff.
On the bright side, her bio states, “Nury helped clean up a former toxic waste site and turn it into the Pacoima Plaza shopping center.” This is fantastic, because when people ponder which mall to visit, the first thing they want is to find one built on top of land that was formerly terribly polluted. I can just picture the sign: Going from hot toxic to Hot Topic, thanks to Nury!
Felipe Fuentes’ Fowl Play: What does Seventh District rep Felipe Fuentes do for fun? If you guessed yachting or lawn bowling, you’re wrong. Instead, his website states that, “Felipe likes to spend time with his family working on their garden, tending to their chickens and sharing home-cooked meals.”
I don’t know why this strikes me as fascinating, but it does, and I’m curious how many chickens Farmer Fuentes has, if he ever brings them to work, if he has a favorite chicken, if he first got a chicken or an egg, and if any of them are named Antonio Villaraigosa.
His Name Is Price, Curren Price: Curren Price took over Jan Perry’s Ninth District seat last year. His website, which favors the shade of green reminiscent of medical marijuana signs across L.A., is pretty well put together, with maps, information on district priorities and a fair amount of community news. It even has bios of 17 members of Price’s office staff.
Still, the most interesting sentence on the site is buried in Price’s own bio. My interest was piqued when I read the line: “He later relocated to Washington, D.C., where he was active for ten years in the satellite communication industry.”
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but when I see D.C., 10 years and the satellite communication industry all in one sentence, I’m thinking spy or NSA eavesdropper. It raises all sorts of questions: Can Price track your whereabouts using your cell phone? Does he control sleeper agents? Does he know Edward Snowden or Jack Bauer? Has he actually been sent here to go undercover and gather intelligence on José Huizar?
Joe, You Might Not Want This for Posterity: The thing about the Internet is, once something goes up online, it’s pretty much there forever. Still, 15th District Councilman Joe Buscaino might want to hire the cleaner from Pulp Fiction to get rid of all traces of the video on his YouTube page — linked from his official page — titled “Dwight Howard Day in Los Angeles.” This is a painful reminder for Lakers’ fans — and an amusing one for Clippers fans — of how even the city council tried to get the star center to commit to Los Angeles. Now that Howard is a member of the Houston Rockets, purple and gold supporters can only cringe at the Nov. 14, 2012, video, in which Snoop Dogg introduces the resolution while standing next to Councilman Bernard Parks (seriously!), a gospel chorus serenades Howard, and a hugely grinning Buscaino gleefully proclaims, “He’s going to do great things for the Lakers! We’re really proud of him.”
No Ties That Bind: Anyone who has seen 11th District Councilman Mike Bonin in public knows that he favors blue shirts and avoids the tie. But only by reading his bio will you truly understand why. “He loathes neckties,” reads a passage, and who knew he feels the way about ties that so many people do about Donald Sterling. If you thought you could put Bonin in a Box — which I think is a popular Christmas item alongside the Elf on a Shelf — then consider the next passage, which says he “shows up for many neighborhood functions in shorts.” I think that’s a fact and not a threat.
Still, the scariest four words come in the last sentence. It reads, “A former newspaper reporter...” Hey, I’m a newspaper reporter! Maybe I should run for — uh, never mind.
© Los Angeles Downtown News 2014