EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written for Nina Royal’s North Valley Reporter.
In days of yore, public buildings were named for the dead, people who had lived distinguished lives and deserved in some small way to be remembered and honored.
These days, public buildings are bearing the names of the living however forgettable or forgotten they are. It’s as if these two-bit politicians did something great for the public and not just served their time and gone along for the ride.
It irks me every time I drive past the Council District 3 community/constituent center in my neighborhood and see the name Dennis P. Zine chiseled into the wall in large letters. Isn’t it enough that he’s got a six-figure pension for writing traffic tickets plus a $180,000 salary as Councilman that could entitle him to a second six-figure pension as a civilian?
We’re grateful for his long commitment to self-service and occasional public service but it’s we the taxpayers who pay for this indulgence of the needy ego of a man who has yet to do anything that distinguishes him from a lot of other hack politicians – or traffic cops for that matter.
This comes to mind with the unanimous decision recently of the City Council to rename City Hall East, a truly mediocre building where nobody wants their office located, after James K. Hahn. Among his claims to fame and honor, according to the colleagues who bestowed this honor on him, are that he is the son of the beloved pothole king, the late Supervisor and Councilman Kenny Hahn and is the only politician who served in all three citywide offices – one term as controller, four as city attorney, one as mayor.
One after another, Council members stood to praise Jimmy Hahn for his modesty and quiet sense of humor that went mostly unnoticed by the public who saw a dour man, uncomfortable in the public fishbowl.
One after another, they stood to praise him for dumping their absent and ailing colleague Bernard Parks as police chief and hiring Bill Bratton.
But most of all, they praised him for defeating Valley secession with a 10 to 1 funding advantage and the safeguard of passage requiring not just a majority in the Valley – which it got – but a majority of voters citywide which it never could have gotten in a million years.
This was a view shared by the underserved Valley’s own Council members, including Paul Krekorian, without anybody mentioning the various pay-to-play scandals that occurred during Hahn’s time as mayor as City Hall corruption turned viral or the passivity of his leadership which allowed the Council to remain the city’s governing body despite Charter reform and kept Neighborhood Councils from becoming effective instruments of local control.
For all I care, they could name City Hall itself after Antonio Villaraigosa and chisel it stone on the front entrance. They could call the $500 million police headquarters after the narrow-minded drunk William Parker like they did the old police headquarters.
What’s in a name after all: City Hall and City Hall East would still be as corrupt to their cores no matter what moniker they are given.