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She's the Mayor That L.A. Needs

April 09, 1993|RIP RENSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

I've made up my mind. I'm voting for Eileen Anderson for mayor.

No, no, I'm serious. I'm referring to Eileen Anderson, the self-described "dancing landmark" and perennial entry for just about any office she can run for. The Irish-English redhead who, for decades, has stood on a corner near City Hall in a green knit bikini, dancing and singing. (She still sings; the bikini has been retired.)

I've had enough of all these self-serious candidates and their television ads, their sniping, their slogans. Every time I hear "The Man With the Plan," I think only of the palindrome "A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama." When I see that guy who owns the Original Pantry, I think only of great cole slaw and fried potatoes. Face it--wouldn't anybody take a dollar-a-year mayoral salary if they could afford to take a dollar-a-year mayoral salary?

This is Anderson's sixth run for mayor. I think it's time to take her seriously and elect her. There are things that can be said about the woman with some certainty that cannot necessarily be said for the other candidates.

She is not a phony. She is utterly sincere. She does not appeal to fear, does not campaign by accusing others of scandal. All those years of her song-and-dance protest outside City Hall demonstrate an unselfishness and dedication to public service that none of the other candidates can equal. After all, she did it for free!

I made my final decision based on two things: Anderson's "vision" for L.A., as she described in this newspaper's Op-Ed page, and last month's remarkable appearance on a Century Cable talk show hosted by Bill Rosendahl. She demonstrated--and this cannot be disputed--great love of the city and noble ideas for fixing it.

Anderson's L.A. vision includes "youth centers" and trade schools to teach kids a skill and self-respect. She wants troubled kids placed in rehabilitative programs that will teach them to help their communities and learn a trade. She wants more police to patrol on foot and horseback, to foster rapport with the community. She wants teachers to be paid adequately. She wants to hire the homeless to paint over graffiti and clean up parks and beaches--for a salary of clothing, food and shelter. She wants a train system that serves the whole city, not just the Wilshire Corridor. And she says it can all be done by redistribution of existing funds and a city lottery.

What's that? You chortle at the naivete of these notions, and their feasibility? Well, laugh if you like, but you cannot dispute their fundamental goodness. And when you get down to it, naivete might be a better quality to bring to public office than that attribute known as "political savvy."

What's wrong with youth centers and trade schools? Can't afford them? Tax booze and cigarettes. Shake down some corporate donations. Hit Barbra Streisand up for another contribution. Maybe Jack Nicholson can kick in a million or two from his next paycheck. Get Eddie Murphy, Paul Rodriguez, and all those rappers to organize a couple of monster benefit concerts a year. Call George Harrison--you know, The Concert for Losangelesh. Put Edward James Olmos in charge of the youth centers; let Jim Brown run rehab centers for "bad" kids and gang members. (I'll bet they'd work for a buck a year, too.)

While it's doubtful that many cops these days feel good about getting closer to the community by walking beats or riding horses, it's still a nice notion. Besides, Anderson says she her platform is not intractable.

During her cable TV appearance with five other little-known candidates, Anderson was asked to explain her platform. In response, the lady did what she is famous for. She sang:

The cost of living's rising high / the taxes almost made me cry/the school's federal aid is running dry / I must fight and I will try / want to be what I have started out to be / want to be a woman representing you, you see . . .

Why the warbling?

"Usually you get a minute to speak," Anderson told me by phone. "There's not enough time to say anything detailed. So I sing my ditties."

Makes sense to me. Besides, it's a hell of a lot more interesting to listen to--and often just as informative--as the rehearsed, stilted things candidates usually say. When Anderson was asked to make a closing statement on that same show, her response was touching, and profound. She sang: Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling / from glen to glen, and down the mountainside / the summer's come, and all the flowers are dying . . .

"Danny Boy" says more to me about what's going on in this town than any statement I've heard from Mayor Bradley, Chief Williams, the other mayoral candidates--more, even, than Rodney King's "Can we all get along?"

"I sang it because it was near St. Patrick's Day," Anderson said, "and because it's sort of sad--like the city of L.A. is sad. I'm trying to say that 'Danny Boy' is the story of L.A.--what's happened to it. I try to sing that song wherever I go."

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