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Council members are (sadly) introspective at retreat

July 16, 2007|Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writer

Attentive readers may recall a little item a few months ago here on Page B2 concerning the Los Angeles City Council taking a retreat to San Pedro this summer.

The council getaway was Tuesday and Wednesday, and we regret to report that, as far as can be told, no drunken council members wandered into a tattoo parlor, nor did any of the pols get seasick during their evening cruise of the port.

Hey, bad news sells.

The retreat was the idea of Councilman Eric Garcetti, who earlier this month was reelected council president. It was Garcetti's hope that the retreat literally would distance the council from City Hall and give members time to talk, vent, argue and brainstorm.

"The next great idea is coming from the person sitting next to you," Garcetti said as the retreat began....

And who was sitting next to Garcetti?

That would be Councilman Dennis Zine, who was playing around on his laptop computer while Garcetti spoke.

That, of course, means Zine is now on the clock for THE NEXT GREAT IDEA, and we kindly request that he submit it in writing for publication by 4 p.m. Thursday.

We also should add that heated toilet seats, belt-buckle mistletoe and mechanical chip-dippers do not qualify as the next great idea.

What else happened at the retreat?

It was pretty clear that some council members had some junk to clear from their collective basements, so to speak.

Apparently those council members feel that they should take more of a role in citywide policy, rather than ceding it to the occupant of Room 303 in City Hall -- Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

It also was interesting to see how many of the council members spoke passionately about their districts.

Councilman Bernard C. Parks, for example, was pretty much completely stoked as he talked about a developer building market-rate housing in his South Los Angeles district, something that has been sought for the last few decades.

Perhaps the most interesting comment at the retreat came from Councilwoman Jan Perry, who addressed what she thought was a big problem for the council:

"What disturbs me are people who don't respect the [council] and are willing to hand off things," Perry said. "It diminishes what we do. I personally find that painful.

"It means a lot to me to do this, and I don't necessarily sit around and think of my next move" in elected office, "and maybe that's naive."

What Perry was saying, basically, was to vote your conscience and don't worry about the lobbyists, the mayor or what other politicians are whispering in your ear. The fact that she said it publicly was striking, but even more fascinating is that no one on the council took umbrage with it, at least not publicly.

Pencils up, it's quiz time. On the day the news broke about Villaraigosa's affair with TV reporter and anchor Mirthala Salinas, it was whose birthday?

A) Villaraigosa's

B) Salinas'

C) Hillary Clinton's

C) Former Mayor James K. Hahn's

Answers to this and the following questions are below.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn recently put out a news release that Reggie the alligator -- captured recently at Lake Machado in her district -- was resting comfortably at the L.A. Zoo and had just enjoyed a meal of:

A) Two quail

B) Rats sucked into street-sweeping machines at the port

C) Leftovers from the City Hall sandwich shop

D) Purina reptile chow

In a recent report, the Department of Water and Power found that having more pedestrian-only nights at the annual Festival of Lights would:

A) Show the agency wants to take a stand against global warming by getting rid of the two-hour line of exhaust-spewing cars waiting to drive through Griffith Park

B) Lead to more cases of frostbite

C) Promote exercise

D) Cause more traffic

How did this column's idea of charging a toll on people driving into Los Angeles International Airport go over with readers?

Not entirely well.

The thinking was to give people one less reason to drive to the airport and also to raise money for mass transit projects or airport improvements.

Not so fast, readers said. The principal complaint about the plan was that toll booths probably would make the bad traffic on Century Boulevard even worse and unfairly punish people who have no other way to get to LAX.

Some readers suggested that private vehicles aren't the problem. Tom Gilles, for example, pointed out that eight of the 12 vehicles shown in the photograph accompanying the story were the type of buses or shuttle vans that circle LAX endlessly while trolling for customers.

On the other hand, not everyone thought a toll to enter LAX was ridiculous.

The Times' Mitchell Landsberg, who is working in the newspaper's Beijing bureau this summer, e-mailed to say, "Beijing has done exactly what you're proposing -- there's one road to the airport from the city, and there's a tollbooth 800 meters from the airport."

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