When I covered the Alabama legislature way back when in the late ’60s, they would filibuster for weeks on end and sessions would go on all night long.
The booze flowed freely and so did the broads and the bags of cash and sometimes during the wee small hours of the morning, the rap sessions that developed in the back rooms provided an enlightening education to a young reporter.
One of my favorite stories that the good old boys told involved a particularly corrupt time not that long before when the civil rights struggle already was under way and the Montgomery bus boycott had brought Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King to national attention.
The story was about how nearly half the legislature got thrown out over a small mistake that happened in one of those all-night sessions when everyone was pie-eyed and thought they could get away with anything.
It was known as the 24-hook bill that killed them. Because they were careless and drunk on their power, they thought nothing they did had consequences and carelessly passed a law that banned fishing hooks with 24-hooks on them, the kind of tool used in the back country commonly in back country to bring home dinner without actually having to fish for it. Throw it into the pond and spear some fish.
I bring this up because the mayor and City Council are showing the same kind of carelessness and arrogance. They are drunk on power, if not alcohol, and they certainly don’t work all night. But they do think they are invincible.
Crooked or incompetent politicians can get away with a lot but when they trip up. It’s almost always a small thing, not their neglect of duty, their sellout to special interests, their corruption that gets them.
The mayor’s pre-Oscar party Thursday night at the Getty House mansion he said he would never live in is one of those small mistakes that is costing him a lot more than all his other broken promises and personal betrayals, his global travel and self-promotion, his luxurious lifestyle, his failure to attend to his duties, his giveaways to big shots and unions, his failure to manage the city’s financial affairs, his destructive solutions.
A day after he sent pink slips to 562 city workers, 50 times more than have been laid off in generations, he’s dancing with the stars, the Oscar nominees, the celebrities whose own self-indulgence mocks the mundane struggles of the hundreds of thousands of jobless, the millions hanging to their small pieces of the good life in this paradise lost.
I can’t tell you how many of the hundreds of email a day that I get contain bitter words of resentment about this wretched excess.
They see Antonio Villaraigosa as the Bernie Madoff of LA, a swindler who has stolen their city, their hopes, their dreams, their futures.
Maybe it’s just the people who connect to me but I don’t think so. I think it’s Antonio’s 24-hook bill, his let-them-eat-cake symbol of his true indifference to the hurt ordinary people are suffering all over this town.
We’re scared to death.
All we hear is it’s going to bad for a long, long time. The parks and libraries and schools, the tree-trimming and street-paving, the basic services we count on as part of our daily lives, our sense of place — they’re all going to be worse, a lot worse, or gone forever
All we hear is those that’s got are getting more. And those don’t are getting nothing.
Nobody hears his spin that global corporations are paying the bills for his party because we know in our hearts we’re getting the bills for all their parties.
Life is funny that way, little things do mean a lot.