Politicians On Video, Part 2

labonge riding bike.jpg
Last week, Land of Departures toured the first half of Departures' collection of oral history interviews with nine prominent Southern California elected officials.

That political roll call featured: Compton Mayor Eric J. Perrodin, Compton City Councilmember Yvonne Arceneaux, State Assemblymember Mike Eng, Congresswoman Judy Chu and former State Senator and State Assumblymember Tom Hayden.

(Read part one HERE.*)

We're back this week with archival visits with President of the Venice Neihborhood Council Mike Newhouse, former Los Angeles City Councilmember Ruth Galanter and current Councilmembers Tom LaBonge and Ed Reyes. Two more L.A. Councilmmembers -- Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry -- also show up on the Departures pages, although not as oral history providers.

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ED REYES, Los Angeles City Councilmember (1st District)

"Poverty," Reyes tells Departures, "has a way of beating us down."

Reyes is standing along the banks of the Los Angeles River when he says this. The Councilmember is the Chair of the Los Angeles River Ad Hoc Committee. (Disclosure: Reyes and his office and the City of Los Angeles are both Departures: LA River community partners.)

Reyes is telling Departures: LA River about his own local upbringing -- including about how as a kid in Lincoln Heights, he and his friends decided to spend time in the riverway in order to escape a tense Cypress Park playground. Reyes tells Departures that he never went to the Ocean or the beach until he was sixteen years old. And, connecting much of the above, Reyes maintains that, with a sense of civic history, comes a linked sense of personal pride.

"For me," Reyes says, "the River means life. It's what created the City of Los Angeles."

Reyes also refers during his Departures segments to the water body's post-Winter, built-up debris as "the urban slobber." He talks, too, about the resilience of nature, saying that there are more than 230 species of birds nearby. And he discuss the River's master plan -- the Los Angeles River Revitalization Plan -- while painting a big picture of jobs busting concrete melding with planning work re-imagining River-adjacent lands melding with a pan-regional pro-ecological push.

TOM LABONGE, Los Angeles City Councilmember (4th District)

Words and stories come quickly to Tom LaBonge, like a fleet football halfback hitting a two-gap hole.

So when the former Marshall High (Silver Lake) Barristers lineman (class of '71) tells Departures: Story Share LA River, "I could keep talking until the sun comes up tomorrow," the City Councilmember and inveterate Los Angeles booster ain't necessarily being figurative.

The politician known for, among more, a fondness for hiking in and advocating for Griffith Park and for passing out pumpkin bread baked by nuns, speaks to Departures for an ebullient seven minutes and fifteen seconds. By your Land of Sunshine columnists' reckoning, this is the longest single segment in the history of Departure.

(The second longest we've noted is Mia Lehrer, landscape architect and public intellectual, here, at six minutes and thirty-five seconds. Please leave a comment if you find others that are longer.)

Clad in a dodger blue-colored hometown hoodie with the words "Los Angeles" across the chest and "LA" on his left sleeve, the City Councilmember speaks from Elysian Valley ground next to the bike path adjacent to the Los Angeles River -- where he and Lewis MacAdams once did this*. LaBonge covers everything from eating at Chinatown's Yang Chow Restaurant to his own marriage proposal and wedding to a plan from the not-so-distant past to turn the River into a truckway, where big rigs could come up from the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, to the larger history of the city he represents.

"We started," LaBonge says, "when forty-four people walked nine miles from the Mission San Gabriel to the banks of the river."

LaBonge also summons his inner Mark Twain: "I made 120 cents, one dollar twenty, selling frogs for a nickel each."

And LaBonge waxes philosophical: "In life there's only two things you really need: water and relationships. Water cleanses our body, nourishes our soul, grows our food. Relationships give us the stability we have as human beings to deal with the environment."

RUTH GALANTER, Former Los Angeles City Council Member, 6th District

As part of the Departures: Venice, the Departures team interviews the politican who represented that iconic and iconoclastic seaside and near-sea neighborhood as a Los Angeles City Councilmember from 1987-2003.

The Departures glowing text introduction, accessible here, reads in part:

"The list of accomplishments linked to Ruth Galanter during her 15-year stint as a councilwoman in Venice is astonishing. Under her leadership, the Venice canals were restored, the pier preserved, the Ballona Wetlands protected, the development of Playa Vista reduced, the Coastal Act enacted, and the future of the beach skate park put in place. Galanter, who was just a runner-up during the city's council elections before she was stabbed, understood that Venice had a thorough line that needed to be protected, and a template that had to be preserved. What she never anticipated was that her efforts to bring Venice back to life would be co-opted by real-estate speculators who would repackage them to their liking."

Standing on the Venice Pier, waves beneath and around her rolling into sand, the white noise grumble of water competing loudly to be heard, Galanter discusses Venice gentrification fears held by her voting bloc and others throughout the years. This was a key issue, Galanter says, that led her to run for City Council.

"They were worried about losing the special ethos of Venice -- which different people define differently," Galanter says of her early and ongoing supporters. "But there's a common theme in it, which is: A little offbeat -- sometimes very offbeat; argumentative -- this is the most argumentative of all the pieces of the district i represented; creative, artistic, all of those things."

How should a city shape public policy to limit complete gentrification?

"I believe then, and I still do that the key is to be sure that you don't let any neighborhood become so exclusive that ordinary folks can't live there," Galanter says. "And sometimes that means -- often that means -- you have to subsidize housing and put in some housing that is specifically for people of lower income."

JAN PERRY, Los Angeles City Councilmember (9th District)

The elected official makes a Departures appearance in this spot news coverage written by Ed Fuentes and Maria Lopez. Perry is leading a ribbon cutting ceremony at Avalon and 54th Street, Fuentes and Lopez write, commemorating the first, small stage of a potentially larger-scale South LA wetlands restoration project. Perry, by the way, is now running for Mayor.

ERIC GARCETTI, Los Angeles City Councilmember (13th District)

Speaking of Mayoral runs, it's been an open secret that KCRW guest deejay, Slate.com guest blogger, and soap opera guest actor Garcetti would seek the Mayor's office. In September, Garcetti indeed announced.

Back in winter 2010, Garcetti took to the podium as part of Departures: LA River StoryShare Initiative. In the photo, here, Garctti is flanked by fellow City Councilmember Tom LaBonge. Garcetti appears to be wearing a jacket with his name written or perhaps embroidered upon it. LaBonge -- as noted above -- is wearing a hoodie with text that reads, "Los Angeles."

MIKE NEWHOUSE, President, Venice Neighborhood Council

Newhouse is the least prominent, City-wide, of the politicians included in either this post or its companion post last week. Click here, then, to hear explanations from the Venice resident about what a Neighborhood Council does, how Venice's traditions and participation make its Council different from others, and how he thinks that Venice residents favor independent not chain stores, low not high fences, and tolerance for the homeless.

Videos via Departures; Photo of Tom LaBonge on bicycle via KCET Departures Flickr Photostream. It was used under Creative Commons license.

*=Links updated

About the Author

Jeremy Rosenberg is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, and consultant whose work has appeared in various books, magazines, newspapers, and online.
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