Editor’s Note: This is an allegory.
MANY HAVE NEVER HEARD
About that 300 acres in Santa Monica’s northeast corner. Officially, it’s on the SM map. But it operates independently, a tiny fiefdom within the city. It’s a dark little footnote hidden in Bay City history.
A new charter was adopted in 1914 that converted our city government to a commission form. It was flawed and weak, and the police commissioner was poorly paid and had no accountability. Well, there you have it. That’s when money and sordid favors changed hands and that piece was plucked out of Santa Monica and dropped into the hands of the Pistle family.
It has an odd out-of-place look now. Lots of tall, mighty trees, practically an urban forest, but with much taller apartment buildings springing up amongst them, everywhere.
The Pistle family has profited handsomely from their illegal fiefdom, retaining most city services at no cost, and liable to no legal or political restraints. But now there are clouds on their financial horizon.
MA AND PA PISTLE
Had to call a family meeting recently, with Little Johnny and Sweet Samantha.
“Kids,” papa Ray announced, “there are going to have to be some changes, and we thought we should let you know.”
Four eyes opened wide with anticipation and trepidation.
“Money is getting tight now, and we’re all going to have to be okay with doing without some things.”
“What sort of things?” Sweet Samantha asked.
“For starters,” mama Karen said, “no more driving. Cars are evil anyway. They pollute the air.”
“But Mama, we just got out driver’s licenses!” both Pistle kids cried at once. “How are we supposed to get to school, and the Getty Museum, and Malibu to surf?” pleaded Little Johnny.
“You’re not too good to use public transportation, children,” she replied. “Go to the public pools, you little nimby numbskulls!”
“Of course we’re not,” he shot back, “only problem is, our public transportation here in Pistle Paradise, and in Santa Monica too, either sucks or is non-existent. And you just closed the pools. Why are we so short of money now, anyway?”
Is part of it,” Karen A. Pistle answered. “Even though we’ve replaced — at great expense — old meters that didn’t jack those awful car drivers around in every possible way, we’re still losing millions in parking revenue. We’re going to double the rates.”
“Could that be because you’ve been a little too successful at getting everyone out of their evil cars?” asked Samantha, not so sweetly.
“Now, child, you really don’t know what you’re talking about, do you?” smiled Mama. “And we have to be much more careful about our use of water and power resources. That will cost a lot of money but it’s best for the future of the planet.”
“I think that’s a great idea, Mama,” chimed in Little Johnny, “but you keep building more and more apartments in Pistle Paradise, and more units and more people means we use more water and power, right? Why don’t we just stop building here and let other nearby communities do their fair share, since our little part of Santa Monica is already 22,000 people per square mile. Not to mention that each new tall building puts the ones next to it in the shade, and then they can’t use solar collectors.”
“Oh, dear Little Johnny” Mama laughed, “how cute, your simple notions of city planning. We have to keep building, to keep the various revenues coming in.”
“But then you spend it five times over in increased emergency services, schools, infrastructure — and that water and power,” protested Sweet Samantha. “That doesn’t make sense.”
“We have a housing crisis, dear. Everyone knows that. Any other naive notions?” asked Mama icily.
THERE’S A LOUD KNOCK ON THE DOOR
There’s a very large crowd at the door.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Pistle. I’m from the New York Times…”
“And I‘m from Faux News.” “CNN!” “Santa Monica Daily Press!”
“Do we understand you have committed to spending $80,000,000 to fight climate change issues in the next 10 years, only on your little Pistle Paradise piece of the planet?”
“Yes, and we are very proud to take such a leading role,” intoned Ray “Gun” Pistle.
“You do realize,” said the reporter, “that all that money you’re spending will have no effect on worldwide climate change, not even on Santa Monica? And that your residents of Pistle Paradise will be making many sacrifices, for… what?”
“WE MUST ALL DO OUR PART”
Ray told the assembled media. His shirt was practically bursting its buttons over the impact he seemed to be making.
“Excuse me,” interrupted a well-dressed woman, “I am the French envoy and we would like you to come to Paris to speak of what you are doing.”
“And we too — in South Africa.” “Japan here — please come!” “Brazil!” “Dubai!”
Ray had to shut the door to the raucous crowd, but he was smiling a big smile.
“Papa?” asked Sweet Samantha, “if we’re so short of money, why are we building that office building that costs $70 million? My friend Shane’s father is an architect and he says you could build it for $30 million less. And those people are suing us and we lost but we keep fighting it and that’s costing $20 million, maybe 40. And even our stupid new bus bench cost $4 million, right? I know it’s pretty but, can’t you and Mama spend our money a little more judiciously?”
“Don’t upset yourselves, dear little ones,” cooed Mama Pistle. “When you grow up you’ll understand. Until then, we shall wisely guide you through your ignorance and lack of knowledge and understanding. We have a vision for the future Pistle Paradise, and we know best. You are only children.”
“But Mama, Papa,” asserted Little Johnny, “you never listen to us. I’m 22 and Sam’s 24. We’re not children. We live here, and it’s our future too.”
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com