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Style and Culture | AL MARTINEZ

Good luck, Mr. Bratton --you're gonna need it

October 14, 2002|AL MARTINEZ

Iwant to be among the first to simultaneously congratulate and sympathize with Bill Bratton for his appointment as chief of police in the City of Angles.

He has won what a recent poll has shown to be one of the three worst public jobs in L.A., along with those of archbishop and school superintendent.

I'd meant to begin my first day in this shady new location with an upbeat piece, but the presence of a new boss for the LAPD has been on my mind. Such a nice boy, such a terrible job.

Chiefs come and go in this town like fleas on a dog, and we manage to savage every one of them. Bratton is the fifth man to hold the post in the 30 years I've been here, excluding the interim chiefs.

The others have been Ed Davis, Daryl Gates, Willie Williams and Bernard Parks. Gates lasted the longest, 14 years, which probably explains why the department has been in such disarray for so long.

Bratton seems like a good man and I hate to see him become just another blue-plate special in a city where chiefs are eaten regularly. If he's as smart as everyone says, he'll change his mind about the job, leave town and open a hardware store in Wichita.

Little Jimmy Hahn gave him a big public hug and is leading him around like a beauty queen, but Bratton must know by now that a politician's hug is like the first nibble of a shark on a diver's leg to see if he's edible.

The poll? It was the newly established ECB Poll, which stands for Elmer, Cinelli and Barkley. I'm Elmer, a name hung on me because I tend to slur. People think I'm saying I'm Elmer Teenez. Barkley is our dog, who indicates approval or disapproval by the movement of his tail. Cinelli, of course, is my wife and the CEO of ECB. The poll began with a discussion of the new chief and my assertion that, even if asked, I would never accept the job he just took.

"Do you really think anyone would ask you to be a police chief?" Cinelli said. "No offense, dear, but that would be like recruiting Homer Simpson to become the president of Yale."

The discussion escalated from whether I could run the Police Department to why anyone in his right mind would want to run it. Once Little Jimmy's hug is forgotten, no one is going to be truly happy with what Bratton does, even if we said we'd wanted him to do it in the first place.

"Being school superintendent is a lot worse," Cinelli said. "All those parents and teachers and PTAs and unions after you like a pack of dogs. Look what happened to the last guy, what's his name, Zacarias. He began as God's gift to education and ended up flattened like a tortilla. When they ask you to be chief and me to be superintendent, let's both decline."


Tough time for Mahony

The job currently held by the Pope of L.A. -- that would be Cardinal Roger Mahony -- was the third position we discussed. Not only has he found himself between God and a hard place for several months due to a rash of priestly perversions, but now his beloved cathedral, the Taj Mahony, has come into question. A guy can't even build a monument to himself anymore without someone complaining.

Priests are wondering out loud how come the archdiocese could spend $190 million for that funny-looking cluster of buildings, claiming it was fully funded, and then announce a budget cut of $4.3 million because there isn't enough money to go around. Mahony, who can be slicker than wet grass on a downhill slope, replied that one had nothing to do with the other. They were just caught up in a budget emergency.

A group of activists called the Catholic Workers Community picketed during construction of the cathedral because they felt the money spent on the building could best be used to house the homeless and feed the hungry. Mahony argued that no charity would suffer due to construction. But as it turns out, programs are going to have to be shut down and people fired. A lot of priests are becoming suspicious that maybe one did have something to do with the other.

The fact that priests are speaking out against the guy whose ring they've been kissing for many years indicates that the honeymoon may be over for Mahony too. If the priests are after him and the activists are after him and the D.A. is after him, can the nuns be far behind?

There may be worse jobs in town, but those are the final choices of the ECB Poll. I wouldn't take any of them, although I have wondered how it would feel to be in charge of something other than the dog and three angelfish.


Al Martinez's column appears Mondays and Fridays.

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