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TV Debut 'Not That Exciting' : Lawndale Council Is Star of the Show

November 10, 1985|GEORGE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

LAWNDALE — With a little nervousness, some squinting and two Hitachi FP-7 television cameras, the City Council entered the video age this week.

But the 80-minute council meeting that made city history on Monday was a yawner compared to "Miami Vice."

The council declared November as "Alzheimer's Disease Public Awareness Month," compromised with a developer on a street widening, approved an agreement with Los Angeles County on traffic improvements for Prairie Avenue, heard complaints about rats, decided to make an old-fashioned trolley conductor the official city mascot and, in general, took care of the detailed but not terribly interesting work that keeps the municipal ship of state from running aground.

'Not That Exciting'

One of the stars conceded the meeting was "not that exciting."

Nevertheless, said Councilman Terry Birdsall, televising meetings will make a difference.

"Now I have to stay awake," he said.

The ratings for the first episode of this serial remain a mystery.

Group W Cable, which sends out the taped meetings at 7 p.m. on Channel 125 on Tuesdays and Saturdays after the council sessions, has no way of knowing which of its 2,500 customers in Lawndale is watching, a spokesman said.

Ken Huthmaker, the city official in charge of the telecast, said several city employees watched it, but "as far as the general population, I have no idea who may have watched it."

Watching Lucy

Lawndale resident Monica Lloyd was tuned to Lucille Ball instead of the council meeting.

"I just didn't know it was on," she said.

Peggy Salmon, a retired Pacific Telephone employee, likes watching city council meetings so much that she has been watching Hawthorne meetings even though she has lived in Lawndale for 39 years.

"You can make all your own comments and not get in trouble," she said. "We will watch Lawndale now. Naturally, it is more pertinent."

At the Oct. 14 meeting when the council approved the telecasting, the council took a casual stance when Assistant City Manager Paula Cone suggested that council members might want a screen test before the show actually went out to the public.

That way, she explained, council members could polish their techniques "if you have a nervous tic. . . ." Council members interrupted her with laughter.

No Screen Test

"This is Hollywood!" she finished bravely. The council decided to go ahead without the screen test. They also opted for two showings of the meetings, instead of three.

"Don't torture the people," said Councilman Harold E. Hofmann, who opposed three showings.

"How long do people want to watch these things? I wouldn't sit and watch it."

The only difficulty at the meeting on Monday appeared to be the bright lights, a subject that had been discussed during the planning meeting.

"It is already hot," council member Jim Ramsey had commented, referring to the heat of political combat.

To which Cone replied: "Jim, it will be hotter."

At the inaugural meeting, Mayor Sarann Kruse peered blindly through the glare as she tried to respond to a member of the audience.

"I can't see you," she said, shielding her eyes.

Another Victim

The lights apparently claimed City Manager Paul Philips as a victim as well.

He sat in the audience, instead of in his usual seat in the well of council chambers, rising from time to time to address the council from the podium, but most of the time looking like one of the better-dressed spectators. Philips refused to explain, but the mayor said later that the lights had bothered Philips.

Kruse said she hoped that telecasting council meetings will interest more people in city government.

The meeting ended before 9 p.m., instead of lasting past 11 p.m., which is more common.

Hofmann had this instant analysis:

"It turned out pretty good and besides, it was a quick meeting."

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