One expert said the Sports Arena suite could have fetched $5,000 for each… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)
As Mel Brooks once said: "It's good to be the king."
And if you can't be the king, it’s not so bad being a member of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission -- or, for that matter, Berkeley's police chief.
Just when you think public officials are starting to clue in that "the public" they’re supposed to serve is a little, shall we say, restive these days over their performance, you get stories with headlines like this one in The Times on Wednesday:
"Leaders of cash-strapped Coliseum complex claim luxury suite."
"The taxpayer-owned venue is in financial ruins, but four commissioners kept a private, catered area at the Sports Arena from public sale, so they had prime views of Bruce Springsteen singing about blue-collar struggles."
Yep, seems that L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, City Councilman Tom LaBonge, David Israel and William Chadwick, who run the property as members of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, are fans of the Boss.
So they paid $100 a ticket for digs that included “a private entry, spacious bathroom, kitchenette, lounge area and television screen.”
The 19 elevated seats, boxed off from the crowd, offered dead-on views of the stage for the officeholders and their guests. Arena staff catered the roost with lasagna, sliders, vegetables and brownies, plus drinks.
But it’s not like they didn’t have a good reason to be there. As LaBonge told a Times reporter: “I came because I wanted to have a little fun," he said. "And Bruce Springsteen is inspirational."
LaBonge apparently is big on inspiration. He also told the reporter that the presence of city VIPs at the centrally located suite helps to lift the spirits of ushers, fire inspectors and others working in the arena.
"When a councilman or commissioner walks through," he said, "it makes them feel good."
Oh yeah. Probably those Southern plantation owners thought the same thing as they rode among the slaves working the fields. “Have a nice day, Jim!”
And LaBonge and the commissioners have a soul mate, it seems, in Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan, who went a bit, oh, overboard when his son’s iPhone was stolen:
The San Francisco Chronicle reported he sent regular officers and those from a drug task force to look for the phone, which was taken from a Berkeley High School locker room Jan. 11.
The Chronicle said many officers had been "grumbling" about the search, which involved as many as 10 officers and included Meehan himself. Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, a police spokeswoman, said four detectives were paid overtime for the incident.
Was Meehan apologetic? Oh, please:
"I think it was worth it," he said when asked about the cost of the search for his son's phone.
The response wasn't specific to his son, Meehan told the Oakland Tribune, saying Berkeley residents should expect the same police work based on the resources available at the time.
Now, I know what you're going to say. Throw the bums out!
But corruption is as old as man. So I say, try a little Voltaire, a little Candide, a little glass-half-full approach instead.
I say this is good news for Berkeley residents who have their phones stolen -- and I hope everyone in that town who's a crime victim rings up the chief immediately.
And likewise, let’s look on the bright side of the Sports Arena shindig.
Perhaps we could persuade Tom LaBonge and his colleagues to ride through the streets of L.A. each day in convertibles, waving to the people.
I’m sure it would make the common folk feel good.
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