Thursday, December 19, 2019

"They Said We Were Lying"

When you work in show business, there is very little democracy.

The networks or studios say “Yea or Nay”, and that’s it. 

At the work level, if you have a boss, they’re in charge.  And if you’re the boss, you are.  There are no tabulating votes.  The person in power runs the show.

(Explaining a show business president, pinched by a checks-and-balances approach.)

In your personal life, sometimes things happen that bring democracy – ready or not – knocking at your door. 

And it is not always “Hooray.” 

Case in point.

After Dr. M and her friend Ruth accumulated enough signatures and expert testimonials to apply for a hearing at the Santa Monica Landmark Commission, to request “Landmark Status” for a house we were trying to save from destruction, our application was granted, and we were off to the bureaucratic clutches of local government.

Here’s what was at stake.

After the Landmark Commission votes, their recommendation is sent up for a vote to the full Santa Monica City Council.

Two layers of democracy for those not content with just one.

(As well as those who would have been happier with none.)     

What we quickly learn is that the Landmark Commission is comprised not just of people interested in preserving beautiful old houses, it also includes real estate operatives, interested in plowing beautiful old houses into the ground, building ugly condominiums there instead, raking in fortunes for themselves.

I hope my prejudice is not showing too much.

It’s just that democracy invariably involves opposing sides, with often radically different agendas. 

You may think the other side is wrong and/or stupid and/or in league with the Devil. 

But you still have to deal with them.

No matter which road they take, which is not always the high road.

And here we go.

In the course of our presentation to gain Landmark Commission support, one of the commissioners – from the real estate “camp” – wondered out loud if the petitioners for landmark certification might actually be liars.

That’s me they are talking about. 

(And a close family member as well.)

Their argument, bolstered by no evidence or fact – nor by an honest belief that the house did not deserve landmark designation – no.  They claim we are trying to buy the house at a lower price than the developers are offering, not to preserve it as a viable residence but to turn around and sell it to developers ourselves, cashing in mightily by “gaming” the system.

Liars, they called us.

Just “floating an idea.”

That’s the official “deciding process” we are involved in, the one Churchill once called, “The worst form of government except for all the others.”

We won Landmark Commission approval by one vote.  And later, City Council certification, ultimately buying the house ourselves, down the line.

Why then am I complaining?

One vote in the other direction, and the city’s deprived of a classic “Craftsman Bungalow”, and I don’t have this spectacular view.

One vote!

By someone calling me a liar.

Though highly coveted by people living without it, democracy is a tough town to begin with.  Someone’s always going to lose. 

Can you at least play that tough game without cheating?

It depends.

How badly do you need to win?

And will you do whatever it takes?

1 comment:

JED said...

Earl said, " of the commissioners – from the real estate “camp” – wondered out loud if the petitioners for landmark certification might actually be liars."

As terrible as that is, at least they didn't say, "Everybody is wondering if the petitioners for landmark certification might actually be liars." like someone we know, who was just impeached, would have said.

It just dawned on me as I wrote that - the impeached guy talks like The National Enquirer!

Heaven help us.