I hate what Phil Brock has wrought.
The current controversy, eliminating exotic animals from the pier entrance, is another step in the continued walk to blandness that I think will be the death of this city. As we gentrify, corporatize and sterilize everything for “safety reasons,” we lose our soul, and I hate it.
Santa Monica has a history of being cool and casual, fun and funky, weird and wild. Each time we lose a small store to a corporate firm that only looks like a small business, we eat at our soul.
I spoke to Phil and he gave very cogent reasons on why we needed to regulate the exotic animals, blah, blah, blah, Venice already did it, blah, blah, blah, whatever. We don’t have to do something just because our neighbors to the south do. In fact, historically we’ve taken the off road and been better for it.
Having a reputation for being different is what makes us unique — and a tourist draw. As we approach the boring blandness of beige corporateness, we will lose our most precious asset. Oh, I know we’ll always have the ocean and the beaches, but, seriously, so does Miami, and all things considered, I’d rather be here.
The City Council is wrestling this week with another problem — the taxi situation has again reared its ugly head. Years ago, when they put the small operators out of business in favor of large, corporately owned and managed entities, I was against it. Yes, I represented a taxi company, and yes, they went out of business, so this is personal in that it cost me money. But it also put drivers out of business – drivers with families to support.
Presently the issue is what curb space to allot to small business people who are doing the Uber and Lyft thing. In a free market we wouldn’t have this problem, but we’re not in a free market — no matter what the politicians like to spout. We’re in a regulated market, and those who regulate the market decide who will live and die in the business world. The council could make it significantly easier to use Uber and Lyft, or much harder.
For those drivers who are making their high rents with a few extra hours of driving people around town, the access to curbs could be a huge boon. For the existing taxis — the ones that the City Council has shown such favor for historically — it could just be more unwelcome competition. I’m not making any bets on where the council will come down, but it’s historically not in favor of the little guy — little guys don’t line pockets at re-election time.
Speaking of politicians on the campaign trail, Phil Brock’s web show did an episode in which Brock gets very cozy with Liam Cronin, the Senior Creative Content Producer for PETA — the people who want to ban exotic animals in people’s homes, as he said during the episode. Brock’s getting into bed with PETA on this exotics issue makes me wonder: Who is he really after? Is it really about public safety? Supposedly he was doing this to protect the residents and tourists of Santa Monica who have been “attacked” by the exhibitors who have “almost permanent encampments” in Palisades Park and who thrust their birds and snakes in people’s faces. But he also claims that he wants to protect the animals in a humane way.
One of Brock’s guests, Kirsten Laage, was saddened when there was a monkey performing on the Promenade, and she thinks we “should be consistent since we banned the ponies at the Farmers Market.”
Humans have been using animals for entertainment, sustenance and labor for millennia — so let’s just cut the political posturing. If we need to regulate how the animals are displayed and used, that’s one thing; but to ban them is just overregulation simply to appeal to voters that eventually leads to the fascist state Santa Monica rebelled against in its former hippy days.
My opinion is that these performing animals are all being well taken care of. A 10-foot albino python or boa is not going to last long in the wild, but having a human who provides it food, warmth and vet care allows it to grow to a ripe old age. Without a human protector, he’d have been bird bait in the first few hours of his life. Ponies are fed, watered, exercised and cared for.
Whether it’s animals on the pier or taxis at curbs, I suppose we can expect to see Phil Brock wading into the discussion somehow. I believe we’re going to hear from him a lot over the next two years as he makes his next run at a seat on the council so that he can make some changes that he thinks are in the best interest of the city.
If there’s a city left after we get rid of all the fun reasons to be here …
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in fathers’ and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at email@example.com or (310) 664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.