When Daily Press Editor-in-Chief Kevin Herrera and I get the occasional chance for coffee and a chat, there‚Äôs no telling where the conversation will go, and no expectations. One of the things we touched on a few days ago was scams we encountered recently and how they were a bit more sophisticated and out of the ordinary than what you usually hear about.
He told me of the one he got several reports on (and a detailed letter) involving fine leather Armani jackets from Italy (but not Armani, not leather, not imported), and suave men with Italian accents and a pretty good story. As I listened I thought, I could‚Äôve been reeled in by that one, up to a point, but I trust I would have put the brakes on in time.
Mine happened crossing the street at 12th and Santa Monica to pick up my car. I was approached by a tall, thin man, maybe 50, with short dreadlocks (mentioning all this only to alert you), who gave a big smile and proffered a folded plastic sheet with pockets, the kind collectors use, filled with old silver dollars. A quick glance told me they looked pretty authentic, except for a grayish tinge. He asked me if I would be interested in them for $3 each, then immediately dropped the price to $2 when I took the offered treasure in my hands.
I was pretty sure they were fake, and 100 percent sure when I tilted them sideways to look at the edges, which should have had a certain layering. Real ones are mostly silver, 90 percent up through 1935, with a 90/10 copper mix because pure silver is too soft to hold up as a coin. Also, the whole sheet seemed too light. “These are fake,” I said as I handed them back. He just shrugged and moved on down the road. Maybe I should have called the cops, but I just wanted to get my car back.
Letters, we get letters
I got one this week from a gentleman who seemed to disagree with my column defending Paul Conrad‚Äôs “Chain Reaction” sculpture and the efforts to preserve it. But I couldn‚Äôt quite tell. It was sarcastic (I like sarcasm), but ultimately inscrutable.
But he did pass it along to a standing city councilman, a former (and perhaps future) one, the city attorney, and three local journalists, including the L.A. Times‚Äô Steve Lopez, a hero of mine for his exceptional talent as a writer and columnist. Our local peace crusader Jerry Rubin also liked it (duh) and passed it on.
Speaking of former City Council members, I had a chat with Michael Feinstein and asked him, among other things, what he thought of “Chain Reaction.”
He said he thought it was an important piece of art for our community that should be preserved, and suggested a way. He said if a plan is approved to refurbish and reopen the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, something I‚Äôm behind, there would be an automatic 1 percent set aside for art. That figure would likely be double the amount needed to restore “Chain Reaction.” I hope that option will be considered before some artificial dump-it deadline passes for citizens to raise $450,000 (many say that‚Äôs an inflated figure) by February, because without a deep-pockets donor, that‚Äôs unlikely.
My column about the recent City Council meeting considering the Bergamot Area Plan (BAP) generated two letters from council members. The one from Kevin McKeown pleaded a case I have to acknowledge.
He faulted me for painting the actions of the council that night with a “broad brush,” and I responded that he was right. In the course of cutting my column back to the requisite 1,000 words, one thing I cut out was about McKeown being the lone vote in a series of 6-1 votes that otherwise seemed to ignore everything hours of citizens had spoken passionately about that evening.
I soon after received an e-mail from Councilman Ted Winterer that schooled me on errors he felt I made in the column and I appreciate that, although some are a matter of personal interpretation, I think. I acknowledged to him that like many Santa Monicans I‚Äôm still learning about these complex issues, also that my perspective from the public seats was that both he and McKeown were the only ones up there who seemed at all uncomfortable with the way things were proceeding.
But he voted with the majority, explaining to me (but not clearly to Santa Monica that night) that because of many factors, he felt it was important to approve this BAP even though he had misgivings about certain issues, which he felt could be addressed at a later date. He told me he did not contest because he could see there were four votes in favor.
One thing I‚Äôm surely learning is how hidden from the public is much of what gets done (or not) by the council. Some of that may be necessary. But what the members say and how they vote at council meetings is what the public remembers. Can‚Äôt we have more transparency and forthrightness in our small city? Even losing 4-3-votes would give people more hope they were being heard than 6-1.
I hear a rising tide of frustration and even anger from more and more people who feel their City Council is unresponsive to their expressed desires on big issues; that damage has already been done, and it will soon be too late to stop a permanent blight of unrestrained, unwise development that will change our town forever. This downward spiral will not wait for five more years of elections. I would still like to see a total recall of the entire City Council, very soon, and we can vote back in representatives who will truly represent us.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 27 years and wouldn‚Äôt live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org