stop me before I volunteer, again

 

I think I have a problem.

I can’t stop volunteering.

A few months ago I was elected head of my neighborhood association.  10 Saturdays out of the year I run the meetings, bring the refreshments and in general voice the concerns of our community to the city.  So far I threw a block party, longwood block partyhelped get some trees planted, advocated for some issues with our local councilmanherb wesson with constituents , and got a website up.

The jewel in my unpaid work history was my mayoral appointment to the Central Area Planning Committee.  Roughly twice a month I am one vote on planning issues that come before us.  I get to go to city hall and I have a laminated pass.  Never has anyone felt so excited to be accepted as a civil servant. Maybe because of all the years of freelancing, I like going to an important building with a clip on badge and working.. albeit with no salary.commissioner Brogdon

I’m also on a few committee’s for my daughter’s school. ( charter, underfunded).  So I take some interest in the school board races.  There are few that do.  It’s pretty un sexy, but in LA we have a mammoth school district and unlike other cities the mayor and the council have no control over them.  So, it’s a whole other empire.  Charter’s, while somewhat apart from regular public schools, still must be granted their charter through the school district.  So, the LA school board is “our” school board as well.   Teacher’s unions tend to not like charters because the teacher’s are outside of the union.  Charter’s are suspicious of teacher’s unions and afraid they will try to shut them down.

My take on all this is that parent’s are discerning consumers of education.  So, charter’s magnets, traditional, private they will be existing with each other. But, we need to put our best foot forward. There are people in our area who would be interested in going to the local public school, but they don’t offer tours.  “Why?’  is what we have heard more than once when calling the school…that sound you here is the interested parent filling out an application for a charter lottery. No surprise, it’s under enrolled.  A mile away a traditional public school does do tours and shows itself well. That school is humming along.

So,  heard some charter parents were rally around one candidate in a special election to be held August 12th.  Good lord, the only thing lamer than having a special election in the dog days of summer would be starting school that day.  OH, that is what LA unified is doing.   I spoke to some of my political mentors about one candidate, George McKenna.  He is a retired teacher and administrator.  Years ago they made a “Stand and Deliver” type movie about his work turning around a tough school starring Denzel Washington.  A friend set up a lunch for us to meet and I went, even though he looks nothing like Denzel.  While not a movie star, I found a charming Southern man who was very thoughtful and earnest about helping children.  Before I could order an ice tea he was talking about trying to get mental health services to students in LA schools who come from troubled places.  It was one of the concerns that reminded me of how vast the LA school system is. By the way since I was a kid I have thought the district should be broken up, but fat chance of that happening.   But, what can happen is for the grip to be loosened a bit on school so that a school can cater to their particular community.  This was something Mckenna and I agreed on. Well, we agreed on quite a bit.  From the good deviled egg appetizer to how a lousy principal can sink a school.

I told him, look the charter’s are scared of you.  He didn’t know why.  “I’ve gone on record as saying if a local school is working, charters wouldn’t exist”.  He was surprised the Teacher’s union backed him because of this.  He believes in traditional, charters, magnets, whatever works for children, not one ideology. I was touched by his sincerity and persuaded by his intellect and experience. He is being outspent. “Can Denzel give you some money?”

“I don’t know how to get to him.” he said.

So, before my after lunch espresso arrived I volunteered AGAIN.

“George, maybe I can throw you an event.” My dear husband was eager to hear about my lunch.  Later we attended a political meeting that a neighbor of ours had invited us too.  On the way out he met George.  The candidate was walking by himself having just thanked the group we were attending for their support and was on to the next.

“You need to go to 5 events a day.” Mark said earnestly.

“I wish it was only 5.” George said in his honey dripping accent.

We walked away and Mark said, “Let’s do grilled cheese.”  He was totally on board.  We must have done at least 3 grilled cheese events for Garcetti.  Now that the famous Thursday grilled cheese nights at Campanile are gone for good, it might be a bit of a draw for folks.  Former council members Nate Holden and Jan Perry who are my friends are also hosting.george mckenna fundraiser

The story has been picked up by a local online publication.  Come by if you care about educating the young, or just want to eat.  Don’t make my volunteering in vain!

 

 

 

happy anniversary Bernie!

Today is the 5th year anniversary of Bernie Madoff’s arrest.  And they said it wouldn’t last!

CNBC called me a few days ago and asked me if I would go on camera and talk about how I am coping as a Madoff victim.  The producer said she had just spoken to someone who said “they had moved on.”  Some people she said “are relunctant to talk about something so painful.”

good gravy, those people look miserable

good gravy, those people look miserable

Me: “That’s cool, I’ll talk, I’ve been coughing up my soul for years.” (cut to montage of my solo shows, stand up, vlogging, after too many drinks at a party)  I was the lead plantiff in a class action suit against Stanley “died before convicted” Chais so I have not been a shrinking violet when it comes to my absconded retirement fund.  I’ve always been ENRAGED.  

As is often the case with these things I don’t love the way it was edited.  First off, none of my funny lines made it in. Like when it came up about Madoff talking from prison and I said,  “I don’t want to hear a thing from that guy.  Unless, it’s hey, Daphne, there is a box of money I kept hidden and here is it’s location.”They didn’t get me choking up, tears in my eyes.

Can I direct this thing?

Also, the other woman who they interviewed talks about getting the money she originally invested.  She must have been a direct investor. We weren’t so we didn’t get anywhere near it.  But, whatever.  Here is another few minutes in the reality show called my life! CLICK HERE  There is an EP of Madoff suckers  victims here.  But, scroll down past his ugly mug to the vid with us.  I’m glad they got the part  about OTHER people, with their own ugly mugs, who have not had to pay the piper. Yet.

The producer said I was good on camera.  I suggested I host a show for CNBC called, “How not to invest.”  She laughed.

my political involvement makes news…sort of

Well, someone is reading my tweets.  I was contacted by a local reporter recently about a rant I did in the summer!  Trying, but thwarted, from speaking before the LA city council.  Here is a link to the story To hear..   the audio click HERE

While I waited for hours my friend , retired councilman Nate Holden kept me company.

Hey, let's take a selfie while these windbags go on!

But, when he left for lunch and I was starting on hour 3 of waiting I asked to speak to someone from my council office.  I wanted it known that I was here for public comments and that apparently public comments was for the public to Hear, not be Heard. My council’s rep, rep said they agreed, but it wasn’t their show.  Hurumph.

So, my take on the package that was passed was never heard, but my take on the process was, so that’s something…I guess.

 

I care about Obamacare

I’d do a video about this, but I have a cold, dirty hair, no make up, pasty.   I look like a neighbor of Honey Boo-Boo’s. Rex and I are home sick today.  Nothing that we need a doctor for, but glad to know if we need one we can get one. Our family pays for it.  A lot.  Least we have it.

I would prefer a more European model– wait- rest of the entire world model– of cradle to grave coverage.  Would taxes go up, probably, but 1) the US middle class is STUCK.  Upward mobility is not what it use to be and people need to be covered. 2) let’s change resources from the military industrial complex.  I know, I’m a big hippie with big dreams. I also want people I don’t even know to have coverage.

But, I also hope for a day when bakeries in the US don’t put sugar sauce on everything and emphasize baked goods with cheese like they do in Europe. Hmm, cheese.

My finger is hovering over the keyboard to sign up because it will probably save us a few hundred a month.  Not a lot, but something.

I do not understand the Ted Cruz’s of this USA.  How are people suppose to get care?  Do they not know anyone who was ever denied coverage?  Its it just survival of the fittest for them?  I don’t get it.

Let’s join the rest of the world and give our citizens at least basic healthcare coverage. Let’s join the 20th century, a century late.

Oh, and let’s join the majority of the world and stop routinely circumcising baby boys.  But, that’s another post..

Cough, cough.

Hobo’s and random funny

some days I wish I was still regularly doing stand up.  One moment was yesterday as I heard a BBC anchor interview a guy about the America’s Cup race.

“Has yachting always been a rich man’s sport?”  Had a been mid drink I would have shot the liquid out of my nose.  What answer did he expect?

” No, in the 1890’s in reaction to the rigors of the industrial revolution workers collectives formed yachting co-ops.” Or

“At the height of the depression hobo’s would sometimes jump off a freight train and join their ranks on yacht’s near Nantucket.  Here is a picture of Joe Kennedy toasting his fellow sailor.  Yes, that one, the one without the shoes.”

“Wait, rich people have yachts?”  

—————

I just did a vigorous work out class.  It occurred to me that it would be a lot easier just not to eat.

—————-

Rex was interviewed at school.   “My dad is a chef, my sister is Vivien.  I have no idea what my mother does.  My brother is in college.  He needs to find a job.”  The teachers typed it up and put it in a frame.  So now the whole school can see that I’m inconsequential and his brother is a lay about.

I have to start coaching him and ask for another interview.

” Cmon, Rex, let’s go over this again.  Mommy has been a TV Host for years.  Look here is a photo of when I had a billboard for a show I was on.” I need something to boost me up at drop off.  I can well imagine how this re-interview would go ,  ” My mom use be on a board.  She looks much better in full make up.”  Maybe I need to spice it up.  Something like this, “My mom is a rocket scientist and does EVERYTHING for me and my family. Her legs, did you see how good her legs are?”    As I looked at the frame today one of his teachers laughed,  “kids, they have no filter.”

Ha, ha, you want to hear what he says about you?

Be sure to tip your waitress

 

Creepy dick cooties

It’s the season for it.. Weiner, Spitzer, Filner.

Anthony Weiner needs to drop out of the NYC Mayor race.  Yes, I’m sure he has been waiting for my call on this.  Eliot Spitzer is sort of bugging me too.

Now, I am an old ’90’s Clinton loving, just wash the dress and moe on kind of gal so why would I turn on these dudes?  Well, number one I’m more annoyed with Carlos Danger. As a hard core local volunteer I can’t see dragging my kids around to support a guy who tweets his hard ons. Clinton had already done things to make me like him, other than being a good liberal mouthpiece on MSNBC I don’t have a reason to rally to his defense.  Here are some other issues I have with Mr. Weiner:

1) not enough time.  Feed the starving, meditate, host basic cable news shows before you run for office again

2) stop dragging that nice lady into this. That’s your wife.  I use to see Huma when I was a Hillary volunteer.

a selfie with Huma to the right

She always seemed very serious, very pretty.  She wants her man to amount to something and you are lucky to have her.  Maybe make some private sector money for her.

4) Kids sexting is a problem and you are a bad example. If we tell our kids that sexting exploits them and can harm their chances of getting into college or a job, but we give you a pass and elect you mayor our argument falls flat.  You don’t need to wear a scarlet letter A, but you don’t need to lead the biggest city in the nation either.

5) I don’t believe you.  You lied when the news broke back two years ago, now it’s more half truths.

4) Maybe a vote, but no support. Having just knocked myself out, “Hi, Mayor Garcetti!”, for a mayoral candidate I know how a volunteer in a city election has to really vouch for that candidate.  I started to feel like an Amway salesperson.  Have  I asked Joe and Jane, my good friends who they are voting for?  Did I ask Mel? Oh, he lives in Santa Monica, forget it, I’ll see him after the election.  I think it’s terrible to ask people to disrupt their lives like that when you are not putting yourself to the highest of standards.  Look at San Diego!  They have that Sleeze ball Filner who needs to take the Tijuana Trolley out of that fine city.  His own fiancée is trashing the guy for being an old lech.  San Diego is a great place, but it has the same problems of homelessness, employment, development, schools that other places has.  It needs a person without chaos who can focus on the issues.  I think Weiner likes chaos. ( arm chair psych).

5) Elliot Spitzer controller?   Well, I do have a softer spot for him because I think he is very bright and I liked his politics and tenacity and facing down the fat cats.  But, he also liked cat houses, which is so stupid at his level of fame.  I have more room in my heart to forgive him that Carlos.  But, gee, that guy, whose name I don’t know, who was going to get that comptroller job, maybe he deserves it.  I don’t think Spitzer should run in the year of Weiner.  It gives him the creepy dick cooties even more than he already has.

I’m sure there are better candidates in NYC.  Not that I know that much about them.  I get most of my information from my phone.

 

 

from an unpaid politician to a paid one

A recent profile of California Lt. Governer Gavin Newsom tanned my hide.  In it he lamented that Governor Brown wouldn’t give him the time of day.  Newsom doesn’t have the influence he had hoped for.  Here is the Letter to the Editor that I wrote to the LA Times that they published today as the lead letter.

July 17, 2013

Re “For Gavin Newsom, it’s lonely just below the top,” Column One, July 15

With Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom having no influence on Jerry Brown, clearly our governor does not subscribe to Abraham Lincoln‘s “team of rivals” leadership style. So if Newsom feels he is powerless, I invite him to switch places with me.

I am a member of a neighborhood association and a board member of a neighborhood council. I lobby my local City Council member’s office and other departments regularly to try to improve the quality of life in my community.

Just as with Newsom, I get little response, but unlike him, I do not have a salary of $123,965 or a $1 million budget to pay my staff so I can be ready for TV appearances. I am a volunteer who is underemployed.

One must serve one’s community as a duty.

Daphne Brogdon

Los Angeles

I wrote that because it sounded better than “shut your pie hole, you cry baby.”  Lt. Governor is not a position that denotes wheeler and dealer.  However, here he is being driven around, he gets to be  a UC Regent, meets with people of influence while he also hosts a TV show.  Where do I sign up for that?

Oh, and he has a pension.

My guess is “his people” cringed when they saw this piece. I’m sure this wasn’t the aspects of Newsom they were hoping to highlight.

 

 

When Stars Align a guest post by Monique Ruffin

While I’m on my trip I have enlisted some of my favorite women to help me fill this space.  Because of my involvement in the Mayor’s race I have felt more connected to my city and wanted to pick bloggers who also feel that connection.  Today it is Monique Ruffin.  I met Monique at a shoot for Mom.me sometime in ’12 and I was instantly drawn to her.  A charismatic single mom I thought, “she has it”.  She writes for the Huffington Post and is passionate about her dedication to doing good and raising her son who has special needs.             If we were in pre school together I would pull my mat next to hers at nap time.  The more you know of her you too will want to be her friend. 

 

Last Tuesday, May 21, 2013, Eric Garcetti was elected mayor Los Angeles, the second largest city in the U.S. It was a hard-fought race for both candidates, and by the end of the campaign, many local news outlets were saying it was too close to predict a winner. In my personal circle, which includes many politically savvy folks, the message was to keep campaigning to the very end in order to ensure a Garcetti victory.

 

As fate would have it, I was interviewed by Seema Mehta, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, just three days before the election. At the time, I was at the park pushing my six-year-old son on the swing. Sometimes the stars just align, and things happen more fortuitously for you than if you had tried to organize them yourself. I have been a political junky all my life, and I was heavily involved in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. I even wrote a book, titled Open Your American Heart: From Personal Responsibility to Collective Accountability, hoping to help citizens understand the personal nature of politics and how valuable we each are to the process. And so when Mehta approached me with a tape recorder and asked who I was supporting for mayor, I was ready to talk. What a fabulous opportunity!

 

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and I have lived and worked in many different areas of the city. I love it here. One of my most favorite things about L.A. is our farmers’ markets. I do most of my shopping at the farmers’ markets because I understand the value of circulating dollars to local farmers and how the practice impacts the community and the environment. And because I have a young son, I care deeply about the welfare of the city’s parks, and of the public schools on which he and I rely. My son has Down syndrome, so when it comes to education, I’m all too aware of the benefits of a well-funded system. Maintaining solid programs that benefit all children will prove to be a mighty effort for mayor-elect Garcetti, as it has been for mayors in the past. It is my belief that this mayor has what it takes, the heart and the wisdom, to make a difference.

 

The day after Mehta interviewed me, the Times called to ask if they could come and take a photograph of my son and me. I agreed, and the day before the election Zion and I hit the big time, supporting Eric Garcetti for mayor. That morning my phone started ringing early. I thought someone in my family had died, because relatives I usually see or speak with during the holidays or on my birthday were calling me. After learning that the district where I live, Mid-Wilshire, might be the one to determine the next mayor, I wrote a piece supporting Garcetti for the Huffington Postto drum up last-minute support. I also persuaded as many friends and family members as I could to go vote. It was expected that only a small percentage of voters would participate (it turned out to be only 19 percent), so I knew every vote would make a difference. By the end of election day, two of my neighbors acknowledged my efforts as the reason they took themselves to the polls to cast a vote for Garcetti. I just love that.

Eric Garcetti, Monique Ruffin in the Charlie Chaplin room at Campanile July 2012

 

I’m looking forward to the next four years. I’m going to engaged deeply in local politics and support the issues that matter most for me and my family. I have Daphne Brogdon to thank for this. If she had not invited me to the luncheon hosting a group of about twenty blogging moms and then mayoral candidate Garcetti, I would not have gotten to know him, and I would not have felt as inspired as I was on the day the reporter approached my son and me in the park. Who knows what’s possible when the stars align?

Monique Ruffin can be found at the Huffington Post and at Moms Can Change the World.  

VICTORY…and what I wore

My friend Eric Garcetti won.  July 1st he will be the Mayor of the 2nd biggest city in the USA.  I’ve been feeling on the verge of emotion for days, and had hoped to bawl last night… wine or lose.  However, it didn’t work out that way.

Victory rolled in slowly

The large venue held a few of the people I’m use to seeing at his events and about 900 more I didn’t know.  Mark was with me as were my sister Cecily, and her daughter Lily.  They had made calls for the first time for Eric that day.  My other sister is out of the country, but my nephew Charlie was there.  He has gone to Eric’s valley office often after school to volunteer.  He will probably be a senator one day and they said Lily worked the phones like a veteran Chicago Alderman.

One of my new friends through the campaign is Leonora Pitts.  Star of TV and activist mom.   There were times when she would show up to volunteer with her newborn- 2nd baby – strapped to her body.  One time I showed up at Eric’s house to make calls and there Leonora was dialing for votes with her 9 day old baby sleeping next to her.  That’s my kind of mom!

and our shoes

 

The party was large that I couldn’t get a good perch or see the TV screens.  But, lots of people were tapping on their phones.  “Wendy is up by 200 votes.”  someone said.  Then Mark saw Gil Garcetti, Eric’s father, former DA, all around nice guy.

“Mark” Gill hugged Mark.  We asked about what we had just heard.  Gil said,

“We expected that.  Those are early absentees.  Greuel had a lot of ads up then, we didn’t so, we knew they would favor her.” he said talking about the different ebbs of flows of cash in the race.

“But, you saw the exit poll?”   Gil refering to an earlier poll that day that showed Eric up.  I didn’t say, “Kerry was up in exit polls too”  but I didn’t say it.

Then I saw a man standing next to me smiling.  I introduced myself, thinking he was Gil’s buddy.  “Hi, I’m Alex” he said,  I wanted to get a picture with him.” Meaning Gil. Ah, a friend he hadn’t met yet, got it.   I feel like one of my jobs in this race has been to connect people to the Garcetti folk.  So, I said, “Gil, this guy really wants a picture with you.”  He happily obliged.

Then a loud cheer went up.  What??  Someone said, “Eric is up 2 thousand votes.” Cecily took Charlie and Lily home.  It was getting late.

I was VERY honored that the campaign asked me to stand on the stage behind Eric.  I had a special wrist band.  I saw a bunch of the “VIP’s” rushing to the stage.  I had to go up a staircase, across a big balcony, down a big staircase.  The hierarchy of these things as I see them is

1) candidates family

2) big name supporters, local politicians, community leaders

3) diversity of community groups, different ethnicities, Vets, etc.

4) regular people who worked they hinds off.  That’s my group.

People who didn’t have the wrist band were trying to get on.  It was a bit like a life boat drama on the Titanic.  As I rand up the stairs in my heels with my wrist band showing.  I was right behind Councilmember Bernard Parks who is 9 feet tall.  Crap.  There guys my “Hey mom, I’m on TV” moment.  I looked to my right and there was a friend of mine and her husband who are big supporters.  Poor thing she is short.  I said, “Get away from Parks”  I didn’t want to be pushy, cause, hey it’s not about ME, however if I’m going to be part of history I’d like a glimpse.   The crowd shifted enough so that I could move away from Parks and behind Councilman Paul Koretz.  Yes, he is short.  He is also a great councilman, btw, his office was very responsive to some issues we had when The Tar Pit was in his district. After a minute the music went up and out came Eric and his wife Amy.

my vantage point, Bernard Parks head

 

It was a sort of victory speech.  Pretty much what you say when you when, thanking the opponent, but not a “We won!”  line.  Thus, I didn’t get to bawl as planned.  I was just trying to get away from a tall councilmember’s shadow.

I did get a heartfelt hug from Amy who said she was looking forward to what I would write about the last days of the campaign– coming soon.  She is such good people.

I found Mark and we spoke to Jan Perry.  ME: “it’s going to go on for days?”

No, she said, “It will be over by 3am.  Look” she pulled out her phone. “he is trending up, she is trending down.”  Then, “I have to go soak my feet.”   I agreed with the council woman and limped to the car.

So, sure doing the best for our community is important, but what did I wear?  I chose the same dress I wore when I gave a luncheon for Eric last year for mom bloggers.  That lunch helped him win support from some smart ladies who were with him till the end ( more later).  I had asked for his mom Sukey to be at the lunch, knowing she would be a hit.  She was.

When Campanile announced it’s closing I had emailed Eric and said something along the lines of, “well, I’m glad we could help you when could.”  He wrote back in part, “Campanile has been the site of so many memories” Writing this, I’m finally, tearing up. Little did I know my husband would make more memories breaking out his grilled press by himself, at our home several more times to help Eric and make Grilled Cheese for Garcetti.  For canvassers, to win over undecideds.  I worked the room, he worked the press.

I wore a bracelet that Rex INSISTED I wear.  You can see it hear on the outstretched arm over Bernard Parks shoulder ( his left, our right).  An arm outstretched in hope of good times.

last sign on the right is mine

 

 

too nervous to write: election night for Los Angeles

Okay, I have more to say about my deep involvement in the LA Mayor race, but right now it’s less than an hour till polls close and I can’t get thoughts together.  We first did something to help Eric Garcetti become mayor of LA in the summer of ’11.

Tonight I will stand behind him on stage at the celebration party.  I hope it’s a victory party, but for me it will be a celebration no matter because I have experienced so much.  Met so many great people.

Fingers Crossed.