Since moving to South Pasadena two years ago I've marveled at how much living here is like being in a Frank Capra movie. The small-town friendliness, the community spirit, the sense of fairness and consideration permeating everything from the business we conduct to the celebrations we share -- it all adds up to something right out of It's a Wonderful Life.
Including, unfortunately, some self-serving machinations for power worthy of George Bailey's foe, Mr. Potter.
For those readers who haven't caught up on the ongoing saga regarding the bizarre treatment of our beloved police chief Dan Watson by the South Pasadena City Council, take a look at my post here, and the follow up posts here and here. Make sure to follow the links to other media within each post.
You might want to scroll down my blog's comments section here to read the thoughtful and eloquent reply from Chief Watson himself.
After a groundswell of community support, standing-room-only council meetings with passionate speeches in favor of Chief Watson by South Pasadena residents, thoughtful letters to the editor and full page ads in the local paper expressing support from hundreds of citizens, the matter was supposedly placed in the hands of the City Manager.
And we all thought we'd have the happy ending. You know, the one right out of a Capra film where the hero keeps his job and the town celebrates with a big party.
But the City Manager didn't place another employment agreement on the Chief's desk. And then, several weeks ago, The Pasadena Star News reported that Dan Watson would not accept an offer to rescind his retirement and keep his job even if he was (eventually) asked. Most of us have a good idea why he made this decision: because he is a class act who values harmony in his department and peace in his community more than a fight with a city government that seems determined to "make a change" despite a huge public outcry. I was sad and angry when I learned the news, but I wasn't surprised. The chief -- and his countless supporters -- were up against a political wall that wasn't budging.
Apparently, Chief Watson's decision wasn't good enough. At last week's council meeting, several council members stated that they would yield their council comment time to councilman Mike Ten. What happened next was nothing less than shocking. I'll let Larry Wilson of Pasadena Star News sum it up:
...in the midst of a huge national - and South Pasadena - downturn in serious crime, Councilman Mike Ten recently took "council comment time" from his fellow Gang of Four members at a public meeting to project a 10-minute Fox News feature on how the criminals are taking over and how tough it is to be a cop today - duh. He tried to frighten citizens for no reason at all - or, rather, because he has to justify somehow the purge. Chief Dan Watson then had to get up to tell little old ladies - and men - who had been scared witless that South Pas is actually a very safe place to live.
Sweet South Pas, being run by a machine - who would have thunk it?
Read the rest of Wilson's column here.
The 10-minute video shown included graphic images of violence against police officers. To quote from one of many email messages I've received on this subject, "For me, there was panic. Here's what I saw: Political machines winning in a small town. Unfairness. Denial. Betrayal."
There is a persistent rumor about why this is happening. Fellow South Pas blogger The Ostrich Feeder covers it here. I have no way of knowing the truth of the backstory. What I do know is that a good man, a great public servant and a fine employee of our city has been thrown under the bus. And it's wrong.
Remember It's a Wonderful Life? Where Potter is defeated and George Bailey makes his town a better place for the community?
Unfortunately, in South Pasadena's Frank Capra story, Potter wins.