Paul Koretz’s Beauty Pageant Monologue

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

While many of Los Angeles’s city officials are seemingly ignoring our
fiscal decline into Chapter 11, one Valley city councilmember thinks
he has the answer, "people power!"

In his monthly column published in the June edition of the Sherman
Oaks News, Councilman Paul Koretz writes, "Even though Los Angeles
faces many tough challenges, I have great hope for the future of our
city. The reason is simple – I’ll call it people power!"

He continues: "Every day, people in action make a difference for the
sake of their community. To me, this is absolutely inspiring."

Koretz, who is completing his first year on the city council, cites
examples of "people power" in a town hall meeting he hosted to provide
information on code enforcement, another town hall meeting with
presentations from various city departments, and the public’s response
to a hit and run incident. (If these events are "absolutely
inspiring," the Clippers should offer Mr. Koretz courtside seats).

As I read this column with both fascination and utter horror, I was
reminded of the one beauty pageant I ever watched for more than five
minutes, where Ms. Someplace or Other spoke insipidly about world
peace and saving the polar bears as her top objectives in life. I
think she was runner-up.

You see, our city is facing perhaps its most dire fiscal crisis ever.
While a former mayor has recently opined in the Wall Street Journal
that the city should plan for bankruptcy, most of our city officials
are more interested in our semi-boycott of Arizona than the city’s
$485 million budget deficit and an unfunded $1 billion pension hole.

In the midst of serious problems that will impact our city for decades
to come, reading Koretz’s column about people power inspired me to
lower my expectations of our city officeholders and consider holding a
tea party. (Politically, I’m probably more of an herbal tea party

The column does not give the impression that Paul Koretz is
aware of, or concerned about, the problems over which he should be
losing sleep every night.

Having known and admired Mr. Koretz since he served ably on the West
Hollywood City Council during the 1990s, I guess I expected more from
him. I’ve been impressed with his quotes in the press questioning cuts
to some of the city’s most sacred budget cows. That is the kind of
leadership we need to get the city out of this mess, not some babble
about people power. (Since kids cannot vote, I can’t even figure out
who he is pandering to).

So, I guess I am surprised that he would dedicate his column to what
one would expect from an essay written by an idealistic sixth grader.
Even the Sherman Oaks News’ 13-year old columnist Jon Epstein seemed
more thoughtful talking about looking forward to summer break.

Los Angeles has serious problems.

Fiscal mismanagement and lack of
oversight on our pension funds are resulting in hundreds of middle
class people losing their jobs. Cutbacks to city services are hurting
the quality of life in Los Angeles and our future vitality.
Instead of critical issues of importance to Angelenos, too many city
officeholders appear to be more focused on what Arizona is doing and
who gets to go to the Laker victory parade.

In contrast, whenever I’m
half a billion dollars in debt and my stock portfolio is losing money
fast, I tackle those items first – then I’ll turn on a Dodger game to

Paul Koretz owes his constituents a lot better than a column dedicated
to "people power," and next month I hope his staff submits a column
about something substantive to reassure us that he and his colleagues
are up to the tasks of balancing our budget and solving complicated

Knowing Paul Koretz as long as I have, I suspect he agrees
with me.

For folks on the public payroll earning $178,789 per year with a city
car and large staff, I would hope that city councilmembers would at
least appear to be obsessing over how to solve the dire fiscal
conditions of L.A. This kind of people power drivel might have worked
as a slogan for someone running for sixth grade class president in the
1970s, but it is far beneath the level of understanding that the
highest paid city councilmembers in the country should display.

We deserve better.

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