Just a Thought – Wasteful Thinking

I want to begin by clarifying my role as a journalist in this community, because we are now living in a world where it is easily assumed that everyone has an agenda, everyone is playing on some team, everyone has an axe to grind.

My only axe here is that I hate to see things go to waste.

I’ve been writing about this city council for about a decade, and I want to be clear that I do not care who the mayor is. It makes no difference to me, at all.

After months of campaigning, knocking on doors, addressing candidate forums, I saw two newly elected council members waste a shocking amount of the political capital that they had accrued.

Clearly, this was a lack of wisdom. I know that they are smart people, and they did something wildly self destructive. On Tuesday May 1, 2018, I had people who had volunteered for their campaigns texting me and emailing me about how very disappointed they were. That was before I even published the journalism, and way out ahead of the commentary.

To burn the people who gave their time and money – and more – to get you elected…what a waste.

When I posted my editorial “Ethics 101” I included a link to a previous editorial from ten years ago about why I was glad that Gary Silbiger’s time on the council was over.

It surprised me to read it after all these years. People had reacted to it as if it were a molotov cocktail, and I found it to be as mild as milk.

I do not know why Mr. Silbiger’s collegues on the council chose to bypass his expected rotation as mayor, but he spent every Monday evening of the following year wasting as much of everyone’s time as possible.

I hate to see anything go to waste, and time is the single most important non-renewable resource we have.

I want to tell you a very brief story about myself.

When I ran for office in Venice way back in the 20th century, I did so at the specific request of John Haag, who was the founder of the Peace and Freedom Party. After winning my seat on the Venice Town Council, I got a lot of grief from John Haag over the fact that I was voting from my own perspective and not from his.

When John Haag repeatedly confronted me about my lack of cooperation, I pointed out that this Peace and Freedom he was so keen to support seemed to be pretty exclusively about his peace and his freedom, and did not seem to be able to respect my peace and my freedom.

My need to think and speak for myself and not simply go along as part of a voting block caused a lot of stress, and I ended up resigning my seat before the end of my term.

I lost friends over this, but I understood they were not really my friends anyway. I had people calling me up and screaming at me in the middle of the night, and then hanging up. I had people tell me I was a traitor. What they didn’t understand is that letting someone else use my vote would have made me a traitor to myself.

So, that’s my story.

Title of Mayor of Culver City is a purely ceremonial one. Running the meetings and wielding the gavel does not give you any more legal authority that your colleagues on the council. It’s a paper crown.

What the city council members have done is to thrown away something of real value – the trust of the voters, the real political capital needed to make things happen – for a title that carries all the legal heft of a sash at a beauty pageant.

This isn’t even about the people on the other side of the political table who opposed the motion – this is you yanking the rug out from under your own supporters. Because – politics.

There is an old adage in the advertising world to “sell the sizzle, not the steak.” The council has seemingly thrown out the steak, and will now have to nourish themselves with the sizzle – which does not contain any calories, nutrients, or even flavor. But it does sound good.

I’ve had people contact me who are seemingly afraid for me. There is a surprisingly large number of folks who feel that my being an honest writer is a threat to my business, to my well being, quite possibly to my children or my property. “Aren’t you scared of what they will do to you?”

Well, no.

So whatever good this council is choosing to attempt to do for Culver City – affordable housing, clean water, any of that – it’s coming from the  patriarchal perspective that you’ll do what you want, because you know what’s good for us.

Keep reassuring us to pay no attentions to the man behind the curtain, because it’s not about his wounded ego, or his dishonest political machinations, or anger at anyone who doesn’t unquestioningly agree with his perspective. It’s not about his using his wealth to get people elected who will do what he says, without any of that irritating critical thinking.

Now there are allegations of a Brown Act violation, and true or false, it is a serious stain on the political future of all of these council members.

Who are smart people, who could have done so much good. But once you have lost someone’s trust, trying to win it back may well be a waste of time.

I hope the future is less wasteful.

Judith Martin-Straw

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9 Comments

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Thank you, Judith. Those 4 people sold out to their own ideology, not ours. And you can bet that there will be more.

  2. “On Tuesday May 1, 2018, I had people who had volunteered for their campaigns texting me and emailing me about how very disappointed they were… This isn’t even about the people on the other side of the political table who opposed the motion – this is you yanking the rug out from under your own supporters.”

    Who, in real life, are some of these avid initial supporters of the two winning Council candidates who now feel hurt and betrayed by the Councilmembers’ subsequent votes for Vice Mayor? Can anyone actually name, like, 5 such human beings? 5 actual people whose names were among the hundreds and hundreds of campaign endorsers for Fisch and/or Lee, and whose support for (and trust in) those particular Councilmembers has now been irrevocably lost? ‘Cause these people– whoever they are– keep getting alluded to anonymously in third-person (as you do above, Judith). But, somehow, I have to actually meet 1 such person, much less 5 of the vast legions of such Culver City voters whom we are led to believe exist. I myself would be interested to meet some!

    As for the regular old rank-and-file Culver Citizen– not an avid “supporter” of any particular candidate or clique, but a median voter and taxpayer in this city– are we absolutely, 100% sure that he or she cares passionately about the City Council’s policy (or lack there-of) regarding mayoral succession? That his or her trust in our civic institutions (and the people currently helming said institutions) has been squandered by the outcome of the Council’s vote on this very vital issue? ‘Cause speaking as someone who did some canvassing prior to the election– and who heard lots and lots of voters mention lots and lots of issues they found personally important in the weeks preceding the election– here’s how many of those voters brought up the issue of mayoral succession policy: zero. Not one of ’em. Voters talked to me about the oil fields, about parking, about skyrocketing rent, about homelessness, about traffic, about public transit, about the CCPD, about the Chamber of Commerce, about the parks… but not one of those voters so much as mentioned mayoral succession policy as a campaign issue (much less flagged it as a *vital* issue upon which their own votes– and personal faith in our civic institutions– would hinge).

    So… did I just not knock on the right doors?

    Or is it possible– just *possible*– that this particular issue is far more important to a relatively-small handful of disgruntled supporters of the Chamber-backed candidates who lost in April than it is to the vast majority of Culver City voters and residents?

    P.S., if the above should be the case… that’s okay! Everyone has a right to be mad about what he or she is mad about! If someone is a proud supporter of Chamber-backed candidates, and is angry about the recent loss of elections and civic influence (and now the mayoral gavel), that’s perfectly understandable. I totally get it. But, personally, I’d just prefer that such people speak their anger for themselves, under their own names, rather than trying to borrow some additional legitimacy for their anger by purporting to speak for the nameless (but deeply disillusioned) former supporters of the other candidates.

  3. It may not surprise you, these people got in touch with me, and asked that I keep their confidence. I get a number of emails that are not letters to the editor – and often my initial response is to ask if I can make it public. Most of the time the answer is no.
    It’s not my preference – we cannot have a dialogue if it’s all offstage – but it’s a part of my job to respect the privacy of those who request it.

  4. Well, I certainly agree that it’s really hard to have a dialogue if it’s all offstage. Oh well. Thanks for doing what you’re doing, Judith.

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