Seven City Hall Columns I Never Got Around to Writing

Los Angeles is a less entertaining place for City Hall watchers without former City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. Plus, you could anagram his name into the phrase Anarchic Term Nut.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - Here’s the thing about work: It’s really busy. It’s especially busy in Downtown Los Angeles, where you never know when the next supermarket will be announced or the next politician will get in trouble because he (it’s always he) is caught canoodling (it’s always fun to call it canoodling) with someone who is not his wife.


It’s so busy that, over the years, I have missed the opportunity to write a bunch of columns. Sometimes deadlines got me, and on other occasions I was busy putting out fires (not literally). 

However, like Socrates, I subscribe to the philosophy that the unexamined City Hall column is not worth forgetting (I may be paraphrasing here). Thus, I’ve gone back to look again at some of the topics I wished I had written about before. Curiously, many of these involve former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Political Trades: One of my favorite parts of the basketball season is the trade deadline, when teams reconfigure their lineups and often ship out some big names. That got me thinking: Why can’t we trade mayors and other up-and-coming or past-their-prime politicians? After all, we the people elect and pay them, and if we think another leader could do better here or that someone just needs a change of scenery, then why can’t the owner of Los Angeles (it was Tim Leiweke before he quit AEG) work out a deal?

This would have allowed L.A. to trade up with Villaraigosa, who was more adored by the national media than local leaders. Back in early 2007, for example, could we have traded him straight up to New York for Michael Bloomberg? Would we have had to throw in another politician like Wendy Greuel to entice them, or maybe take back an unappealing product such as Rep. Anthony Weiner (he hadn’t morphed into Carlos Danger yet, but still)? Or, in late 2009, could we have convinced San Antonio to take on Villaraigosa and give back the untested Mayor Julian Castro?

The possibilities are endless. Even though it’s super early, would we consider trading Mayor Eric Garcetti for New Jersey’s senator-to-be Cory Booker? Should we send out five male members of the City Council for Houston Mayor Annise Parker in an effort to make up for L.A.’s baffling inability to elect women? Would we flip a package of Controller Ron Galperin and the double Mitches (Englander and O’Farrell) for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie simply for the entertainment value of having Christie in L.A.?

Political Anagrams: Is it possible to pull 1,200 words from the idea of re-arranging the letters in politicians’ names? Yes! I’ve wasted hours at coming up with kooky creations. For example, “Eric Garcetti” can become Tragic Recite, Tiger Cat Rice and Art Critic Gee. “Carmen Trutanich” twists into Crime Can Hurt Ant and, amazingly, Anarchic Term Nut. “Paul Koretz” is Opera Klutz, “Paul Krekorian” works out to Karaoke Lip Run and “Charlie Beck” evolves into Bail Checker. I could go on and on and on. For what it’s worth, altering the letters in “Antonio Villaraigosa” results in HAHAHA, the Guy Now Works for Herbalife. OK, it doesn’t really.

Three DWP Contract Allegories: Here’s the thing about the contract city leaders recently worked out with the union representing DWP employees: Only about 27 people in L.A. really understand the nuances of the deal and know whether it’s actually good for ratepayers. Thus, I’d write three allegories to make the contract quasi-comprehensible for plebes like me. I’d work around the super-confusing parts by making jokes and offering references to films such as Tank Girl. I’d also repeatedly reference Councilman Gil Cedillo’s wacky early warning about department workers going on strike. In Story 1, the contract negotiations would be a baseball game, and the DWP team would hit 9 home runs in a row while the city would keep dropping the baseball, but somehow no one could figure out how to keep score. Before each pitch, Cedillo would warn, “A strike’s coming!”

Story 2 would take place at a bowling alley, with the DWP and city teams sometimes ignoring the pins and chucking 14-pound balls at reporters and each other. The DWP team would have cool shoes, though no one could explain where they came from, why they are so much nicer than everyone else’s shoes or how much they cost. Before every roll down the lane, Cedillo would announce, “A strike is coming!”

Story 3 would involve an interstellar attack, with DWP alien aircraft shooting water, power and beefcake posters of union boss Brian D’Arcy while L.A. tossed back Some Pretty Impressive Numbers! Ultimately, no one could figure out who got hit and at some point they’d say “Fudge it” and all go out for $600 million worth of ice cream, for which they’d charge ratepayers $1.2 billion. Early in the proceedings Cedillo would declare, “A strike from afar is coming!”

Mourning Our Losses: This column would have looked at the May election results and their impact on Los Angeles. Not the political impact, but the entertainment one. While the civic-minded Angeleno in me believes that Garcetti and City Attorney Mike Feuer are a big upgrade over Villaraigosa and Trutanich, the columnist in me is weeping like I just watched Kramer vs. Kramer, The Notebook and the first 10 minutes of Up back to back to back. I can’t help feeling that I’ve lost 75% of my material, and I’m not sure how to fill this gaping void. Villaraigosa was never more than a trip to Cabo away from trouble, and the dizzying, filter-less Trutanich was the gift that kept on giving. I could do 4,000 words on his missteps alone. Now there’s Garcetti and Feuer, who do crazy things like think before they talk. Plus, we’ve also lost the enigma wrapped in a riddle known as former Councilman Dennis Zine. Sigh.

When Herb Wesson Met Tony Soprano and Friends: I started planning my Pulitzer acceptance speech about 90 seconds after coming up with the concept of a fictional steak dinner meeting with City Council President Herb Wesson and the patriarch of “The Sopranos,” Stringer Bell from “The Wire,” John Gotti and Whitey Bulger. There were so many avenues to explore. Who’d get the biggest steak? Who’d get to order first?  Who’d end up sleeping with the fishes? Then I realized that putting the president of the city council in the company of some of the biggest gangsters ever is pushing it, even for me. Good thing I never mentioned this column to anyone. 

City Hall Limericks!: Having once pulled off a column based on Dr. Seuss’ book “Oh the Places You’ll Go” (2008’s “Antoni-Oh! The Places You’ll Go”), I reasoned that I could do a St. Patrick’s Day column with limericks about a dozen City Hall denizens. It was easy at first with rhymes riffing off Jan Perry (dairy, carry, etc.) and Bernard Parks (barks, sparks), but things fell apart when I had to work with Joe Buscaino (El Niño?) and Tom LaBonge (a French-tinted “or-ange”?). Plus, I kept wanting to find rhymes for the word Nantucket.

© Los Angeles Downtown News 2013