In My Orbit: A viral article and CNN

29 06 2013
Digital Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Digital Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I talked to my dear friend Anna last night and said to her “I could not have scripted this day.”

That would be yesterday (Friday), when my morning was supposed to begin teaching a 6:30 am Yoga class. My alarm did not go off, so I woke up at 6 am–the time I’m supposed to be at the studio. Through my ingrained pre-planning (thank you, Mom) and Los Angeles traffic being non-existent (yes, Jesus lives!), I made it to my Yoga studio in 15 minutes, and was still able to teach the class. I’m grateful for that, as I wouldn’t want to disappoint the students–I know how important it is to start your day centered.

Unfortunately, I did not get that luxury!

I had no idea when I wrote my usual Washington Times Communities article on Thursday night that it would go viral. Rachel Jeantel’s testimony in the George Zimmerman murder trial was a hot topic for all the wrong reasons, and I wanted to speak to what I felt the heart of the issue should be. I took great pains to be consistent in writing a good story that I was passionate about, and attempted to file on time, knowing that I had a packed morning the next day.

Within an hour of my posting the piece, my editor emailed me to say it was trending at 2,495 hits. I was surprised, but immediately dismissed it, as I had to go to bed so that I could be rested for that early morning class.

After the eventful morning, I came home to a mailbox full of comments from the Communities page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.  That didn’t include the comments from “Shares” done by Twitter followers and Facebook friends to their pages.

I figured I would sit down, respond to what I could, and start writing an article for my other gig, Examiner.com. The best laid plans of mice and men…

My phone rang, and the Caller ID said “CNN” with a 212 area code. I thought, Seriously? This can’t be… but I picked up the call, and it indeed was. A producer from the Erin Burnett Outfront show asked if I could be a part of a panel. I let her know I needed to check with my editor and I would get back to her. My editor did not hesitate in approving this (she was over the moon about it), so I immediately called the producer back and said it was go. Wish everything went that quickly in Hollywood!

Two hours later, I was picked up by a car service, whisked to the CNN building on Sunset Boulevard, put in a make up chair, seated in a black box studio, and fitted with a mike and earpiece for the show. Ten minutes later, it was done.

For those interested, here’s a brief snippet of the panel:

Erin Burnett Outfront CNN Panel: Zimmerman Witness on Trial?

I was thanked for my time, the car service whisked me home and it was back to Friday as usual.

Or… not. The story is still striking a chord, and the commentary continues to come in, especially after the CNN appearance. Some positive, a lot of negative, some downright ridiculous. I hope the conversation grows stronger, and goes toward making a difference in how we train our children for the world.

I’m still bemused by the whole thing, almost like viewing it from a dream state–but it’s quite real. I was especially humbled by a woman’s comment on Twitter: “Brilliant. No words.  I’ve printed it out for our daughters. Sometimes it’s ‘easier’ hearing it from someone other than a parent.”

You become a writer to express your voice, and have an influence. It is quite sobering to see when you’ve done just that.

A friend just messaged me to check in to see how I’m doing, for which I am very grateful. He said, “Most people only talk about cultural influence…you actually did it… Hang in there boss.”

Hanging in. We’ll see where the next wave lands.

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The Los Angeles Mayor’s Race, aka the Real Candidates of L.A. City (Part 2)

17 05 2013

DWBLA Collage

First off, happy Friday! I would like to welcome all the new followers to this blog. Thank you, for reading, and wanting to come along for the ride! I am very happy that my commentary has found a place of resonance with you.

So back to our L.A. Mayoral election, which is only days away (sigh). I am still not thrilled, but a little less apathetic. I had the opportunity to attend A Dialogue with Black L.A. (DWBLA) last weekend, and the main event was a Q&A with both Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti. After watching two debates, I was convinced of two things a) both candidates could have used more debate training, because they both come off liked canned fish, and b) these debates did not serve either the candidate (or the constituents for that matter) in presenting their ideas, or lack of them, to the public.

At DWBLA, each candidate individually had a little over an hour with Event host Starlett Quarles, asking questions and getting responses, then giving time for audience questions and responses. That  time gave me a much better read on the candidates as people and as leaders than what was afforded us in the debates. As I said in my Washington Times Communities column, the laid-back atmosphere made a difference:

“Studying the candidates in this more relaxed environment revealed how each one navigated when off script, and showed their capacity in giving answers not clearly laid out in their usual talking points.”

Read the rest over at the Communities site: “L.A. Mayor’s race: Lesser of two evils or diametric leadership styles?

I have to say that Eric Garcetti came off the best unscripted. The host was a personal friend, so that may have played into it. But it also showed that he pretty much believes what he espouses, because it was given matter-of-fact and off the cuff, without equivocation or parsing. He communicated clearly and articulately, and has a great sense of humor. He had the audience laughing and clapping on more than a few occasions.

Wendy Greuel is a control freak, and it showed in every talking point, and every time she pointed to her 36-point plan (or whatever it is called) to “Move Los Angeles Forward.” Hmmm… we’ve heard this language before in a national election, so if forward means wholesale into morass and scandal, then spare me! But I digress…

It was clear that she really was not comfortable with this type of forum, and if her incoherent and rambling answers were any indication, she desperately needed her script.

In my candidate research, the most scandalous thing I could uncover about Garcetti is that his penchant for urban planning and engineering (part of his educational background) has pissed off neighborhood activists. There are more than a dozen lawsuits brewing over the business and community developments in Hollywood and Echo Park–too much overbuilding, too many tall buildings, and too much gridlock. The latter is a Los Angeles problem no matter where you go, so every City leader is at fault here. Garcetti has also been accused of being in the back pocket of developers; as opposed to Greuel, who is in the back pocket of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to the tune of nearly $4 million dollars being poured into her campaign.

As a resident of Atwater Village, Garcetti’s former City Council District, I have no complaints about the encouragement of small business and building a community that mixes residential with commercial. It has done wonders for Atwater, and I can see it has enlivened Hollywood too. The only way I would have bothered venturing into Hollywood at night was either heavily armed or dead; with some of the revitalization, it has changed the atmosphere and made it much more habitable. One still needs to be wise–this is L.A. after all–but compared to the cesspool Hollywood was 15 or so years ago, it is now a totally different place.

I have no doubt that Garcetti visualizes replicating what he did in these communities across Los Angeles.  The Los Angeles Times confirmed the same last week in the article, “Garcetti’s Hollywood script“: “Hollywood is ‘a template for a new Los Angeles,’ Garcetti says, ‘a blueprint for a city where you can live near where you work, near where you play … where the hours you don’t have to spend in your car, you can spend with your family.'”

Garcetti is also a green activist (his house in Silverlake is supposed to be this ecological marvel), and had his hands all over last November’s Measure B, which in a nutshell, had the aforementioned evil LADWP in charge of green expansion and green contracts–akin to having the Fox in charge of the Hen House. Greuel has been on the attack regarding this (she had her hand in it too–Duh!), with little rebuttal or response from Garcetti. He’s not owning it, but he’s not denying it either.

The latest attack on Eric Garcetti is his endorsement of Occupy L.A. Occupy L.A. camped out on the City Hall lawn for weeks, building up waste, and straining city services. Garcetti, as City Council President, basically laid out the welcome mat, as did Mr. 11-percent, Mayor Smilin’ Tony. Stupid move on Garcetti’s part, but again, no surprise–it ties into his liberal and activist philosophies. He headed a group at Columbia called “Black Men for Anita Hill”, so that should tell you all you need to know. For him, bleeding hearts will always be the fashion.

L.A. Jobs PAC in sponsorship with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce released this online attack ad just today pointing out this yawing gap in leadership. h/t: L.A. Weekly.

L.A. Weekly wrote a really good piece on the five key differences that distinguish Greuel from Garcetti. I found the last difference the most compelling:

“This may be the most fundamental difference between a Garcetti and a Greuel mayoralty. Garcetti has recently taken to quoting his friend, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who said in a commencement speech last year that ‘It is better to have your ship sunk at sea than have it rot in the harbor.’ And indeed, Garcetti has had his share of shipwrecks. He lured an electric car company to L.A. with a $1 million relocation package, only to have it go bankrupt. As council president, he approved the ‘modernization’ of billboards, unaware of the storm of protest that would follow. And have you seen those awful condos at Sunset and Alvarado? Of course, he can point to successes too, or he wouldn’t have won his district by 34 points in the primary. Greuel, on the other hand, is more risk averse. As a result, her sins are ones of omission. Her disappearing act during the city’s budget crisis is a prime example. As controller, she could have had as large a role as she wanted in shaping the public debate about budget cuts. Instead, she avoided the subject as much as possible. In part, her aversion to risk seems to be the legacy of her years working for Tom Bradley, who governed in a very cautious style. That style does not mean that nothing gets done, but that it happens slowly and carefully and only after all the risks have been weighed through careful deliberation. What Greuel chooses to focus on, she will probably achieve. Garcetti is more likely to fail, but also more likely to try harder things.”

As I pointed out in my WT Communities column, they’re leadership styles are diametric; so I see it not as lesser of two evils, but what type of leadership do you feel L.A. needs right now?

The choice is yours. Please go out and vote on Tuesday May 21–the City needs an engaged constituency putting a Mayor in the office who will focus on the people and their needs, and not solely on the people who paid the most to get them there.

 








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