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Mailbag: We need to use the S word with confidence

March 10, 2010

Regarding Richard Tafilaw’s “On the Contrary: This stuff is just plain stupid” on Feb. 23, I am gratified that finally someone has broken the barrier and had the gumption to use the S word — stupid.

It seems that I can’t go outside without being treated to an example of rank stupidity, from the statue of David Burbank and the most poorly synchronized intersection in the city, to an ill-advised plan to tamper with Olive Avenue, to a brain-dead plan to narrow Verdugo.

However, with the exception of David Gordon, who was elected in the wake of the Stacey Murphy scandal, generally incumbents or their personally endorsed successors win local elections. In a city where, truthfully, the only problem is inept and indifferent leadership, you would think there would be a housecleaning. So what’s going on?

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To begin with, the Burbank City Council is a part-time legislature; members are paid a stipend that is not a living wage and must have day jobs. This means they must serve at expense to their personal and professional lives. Most people either don’t want to, or simply would not be able to do this.

In an ideal world, this would attract the “farmer statesman,” i.e. someone who is willing to make this sacrifice for the betterment of the community. In the real world, with the exception of Gordon, it has resulted in a City Council more akin to a condominium homeowners association — individuals who apparently have always wanted to be “somebody,” and waited their entire lives for a thimbleful of power.

Once they have it, they begin to regard themselves as more than they are — punishing those who dare to defy them, pushing through their own pet projects, and acting only in self-interests or the interests of their friends and campaign contributors.

The real problem is that less than half of the registered voters in the city turn out for local elections. City Council elections are conducted more like a junior high student council election. For example, in the election cycle previous to the last one, we had those immature bright red “No married couples” signs all over the city. The argument was that a married couple would vote as a united front.

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