This bike shop loves Dodger baseball. Part and parcel of the Dodgers is the voice and personality of announcer Vin Scully. Like Chick Hearn for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, Vin Scully has been a voice that millions of locals associate with memories of years gone by, family, friends, and life in this great metropolis.
Somehow, fighting against the odds, our local city councilman, “Roadkill” Gil Cedillo, has found a way to alienate or insult multiple communities and has brought controversy to what should be a peaceful final year for the retiring Vin Scully. Once again, Cedillo has found a way to use the tools of transportation planners to abuse his power in office.
Let me explain.
Elysian Park is the City of Los Angeles’ oldest park. It is an area marked by many overlapping layers of local history, politics, and transportation systems. It has an identity. It also has a street named, straight-forwardly enough, Elysian Park Avenue.
When Chick Hearn retired from announcing Lakers’ basketball games, a short segment of 11th Street outside the Staples Center was named in his honor. Cross Figueroa Street, and 11th Street gets its name back. For visitors to LA Live, and for Lakers fans, this makes sense. It’s good politics too: nobody on 11th Street has to deal with an address change and politicians involved in the renaming can celebrate a beloved sports personality without controversy.
Contrast that with what “Roadkill” Gil is up to in Elysian Park: renaming a street that identifies a historically significant community with nearly zero local buy-in. Elysian Park residents have asked, at first politely and increasingly in ever louder tones, to please have the councilman, “dedicate a square, intersection or interior stadium road in his honor.”
If you or I would like to have a street name changed, we’d be asked by the city to go door to door and obtain, at minimum, a majority or even a super-majority of property owners and residents signatures on a petition in support of the name change. I was briefly involved in just such an effort in the early 2000’s as a member of the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council. Members of the council wanted to change the name of Avenue 43 to Lummis Drive. It was no small task, and their efforts fell short.
One hundred and eight letters were mailed out to residents and property owners located along Elysian Park Avenue soliciting their opinion on the proposed name change. From the Public Works report on the issue:
“Of the letters sent to owners and residents, on February 2, 2016 and February 5, 2016, four responses were received in favor and 12 responses in opposition to the proposed name change.”
Not exactly the type of numbers you’d expect for something that has moved so quickly through city council. 75% of residents polled opposed the street renaming. Cedillo plows ahead.
This is how you break civil society up. This is how you turn a local neighborhood into a pariah community; how you create animosity between the wider community and the local residents. This is text book Gil Cedillo.
Cedillo has managed to rip up the plans set down by Ed Reyes, his predecessor. Reyes’ plans were building up social capital, connecting people across ethnic and class lines, building a sense of purpose and love for this city that is so famous for its aloof population.
Cedillo’s plan is a road map for how a politician uses his spite and greed as the sole motivation for his governing style. He has tarnished the last year of Vin Scully’s long and storied career by adding his own nasty little twist at the end to it.
Anyone remember sitting in the stands at Dodger Stadium (we used to exclusively sit in the “nose bleed” section up top), surrounded by other people playing Vin’s broadcast from a portable radio? Or, running late for the game (most likely stuck in that godawful stadium traffic), or leaving early and clicking on over to that crackly AM radio signal to see how the game was starting off or finishing up? Heck, I remember watching the Dodgers play when I was at home with my dad – he would mute the fancy color TV and turn his beat up clock radio on to listen to Scully talk us through the action.
The people of Los Angeles have one last chance to get it right this Friday, April 8, 2016 in city council. Let’s honor the man who gave us decades of service, saw us through good times and bad.
Let’s have a happy celebration of the best of what Los Angeles can be. Let’s dump Cedillo’s plan; let’s find a way of respecting the history of this small community and Vin Scully too.