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EDITORIAL:Raising hell in life, in death

January 06, 2007

It was Thanksgiving of 1999 when former City Councilman Ted McConkey was among several local residents whom the Burbank Leader asked what they were thankful for.

"We ought to be damn thankful that we can go down there [to City Council meetings] every Tuesday and raise hell," he said.

Love him or hate him, McConkey, who died on Dec. 23, raised hell — political hell. And apparently, he still is, even in death.

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Immediately following news of his death, McConkey's critics began to bury him in a reportedly unsavory personal past, which predated his years on Burbank's political scene, and to cloak his public service in a shroud of alleged hypocrisy.

And there's no doubt in the days to come, they will continue to hit the man when he's not only down, but dead. But frankly the bashing is classless and uncalled for.

But then, maybe criticism of your life is the price you pay in death when you rattle the cages, upset the status quo and challenge the political establishment. It's the price you pay when you try to make democracy work.

There are likely those who say he had it coming — for all the criticism he dished out for others.

His character will be questioned in death, as it was in life.

McConkey was not a saint.

But there's no denying that while he was alive, the man kept city government on its toes.

He questioned, criticized and complained about city government, and even this newspaper — and we thank him for that. He stirred things up, bringing with him a skepticism on city affairs that survives, albeit, some would say, in limited supply.

His relentless pursuit of government accountability often put him in the minority during his one term on the City Council — from 1994 to 1999 — and he often found himself on the opposing side of issues when he wasn't on the council. But he found himself leading a charge for those, even if it was a minority, who disagreed with the status quo.

In the end, that pursuit was an essential ingredient in promoting a democratic government — one that wasn't beholden to the will of developers or Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority commissioners or other special interests, but rather was accountable to the peoples' will.

That pursuit, for better or for worse, won him some critics, some enemies and perhaps some bad memories and hurt feelings for some in this city.

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