My first Holiday wish would be for our elected officials to get real. A couple of weeks ago, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved $707,000 for Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to remodel his office. Ridley-Thomas told the news media the lavish redecorating was needed to keep his staff motivated. Such wretched excesses are not just confined to L.A. where, “Let them eat cake” is the standard mantra.

Shortly after that outrageous decision, our City Council approved spending $256,850 for “an enhanced audio/video system for City Council Chambers.” A quarter of a million dollars? It must be a gold plated, all digital system with widescreen 3-D and THX sound. Ridley-Thomas will surely want one for his new offices, too. What’s wrong with a megaphone, crank Victrola and a Kodak Carousel slide projector?

Our City Council, which has never heard the term “frugal” or “give taxpayers a break,” also approved a very generous pay package for incoming City Manager Rod Gould, who is replacing the outgoing Lamont Ewell. Gould’s base salary is $285,000 per year, includes an outstanding benefits package, relocation money, temporary housing assistance and a $1.3 million, low (3.27 percent) interest loan to purchase a home in Santa Monica. This prompted a friend to e-mail me, “It doesn’t appear he’s going to be living in the Pico Neighborhood.”

Another holiday wish is for social engineers to stop telling me how to live my life. To force us to walk, bicycle or take the bus, they support jacking up Downtown parking rates and obstructing roads to make it more difficult to drive. What hubris! Nothing annoys me more than some do-gooder telling me I need to walk more because it’s “healthy” and good for me. No, my friend, I’ll just drive to where parking is close to my destination, convenient and cheap or free. In the meantime, take your long walk — off the end of a short pier.

Speaking of sustainability, all the fussing about whether people should be allowed to smoke in their own apartments is peanuts compared to thousands of Santa Monica fireplaces belching wood smoke. Any city worth its “sustainable” salt must substantially reduce harmful emissions from both residential and commercial fireplaces.

Most evenings, even during the summer, acrid fireplace smoke covers the town like a cheap rug. You can smell it on the streets just about everywhere. Fumes even seep into homes and apartments, causing dry throat, watery eyes and headaches. I don’t want to think about what it’s doing to our lungs.

Therefore, I wish our so-called environmentally friendly City Council would initiate and pass a strong ordinance that would phase out old wood burning fireplaces and either outlaw them completely in new construction or require a $100,000 fee and an annual operating permit for new wood burning fireboxes.

My next holiday wish is for school cheerleaders, the Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School District Board of Education and administrators to wise up about passing a new “temporary” emergency school parcel tax. The Emergency Parcel Tax Feasibility Committee originally suggested a tax of $425 to completely compensate for an expected budget shortfall of $12 million next fiscal year.

As I predicted, voters polled wouldn’t support such a tax. Last week, the committee spent even more money to poll voter acceptance of a parcel tax between $225 and $300 per parcel. This could go on forever because the fiscally incompetent school board and “tax and spend” school cheerleaders are bound and determined to wring some kind of hit from us instead of prioritizing spending or finding other sources of revenue. I’d start by cutting spiraling legal costs, eliminating non-essential non-academic positions, frills programs and terminate CTA union head Harry Keiley’s $77,206.70 annual “no show” salary.

I wish the bozos riding bicycles would cease riding on sidewalks and stop for stop signs, pedestrians and red lights. Putting your big butt on two wheels doesn’t mean “leave your brain at home.” And stop with the attitude. Rudeness and inconsideration will cause injuries or death. Yours. Not mine.

Once again, I wish for greenery in the Pico Neighborhood. A simple request to plant trees along 20th Street and Cloverfield Boulevard between Pico Boulevard and the I-10 has now turned into an 11 year marathon. A simple request for shade trees has now become an exercise on how to screw up traffic by removing traffic lanes and adding bicycle lanes, crosswalks, medians and traffic islands.

This project is so old it’s growing whiskers because it’s what a couple of council members want, not what neighbors want. So, the “planning” continues, costs escalate and neighbors grumble. If or when the work is ever done, you can bet the family Prius, nobody will be happy.

Lastly, I wish our ailing mayor, Ken Genser, a speedy recovery.

Coming up … The 2009 Sammies: Highs, lows and just darn disgusting. Happy Holidays.

Bill can be reached at

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