Saturday, February 13, 2010


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: 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.


Mister Earl said...

It's really sad to find out that this lovely little town is controlled by manipulative... sorry but I can't seem to come up with a better word than 'thugs.' I also wonder how many of the City Council don't like what's happening but have been threatened that they'll be tossed out if they don't go along. So far, it appears that Mayor Schneider has had some principles, but he probably feels a lot of pressure.

It's sad to know that the spontaneous outpouring of citizen support for Dan Watson was utterly ignored by the Council. They did not care at all what the citizens said because - especially in one case - the citizens did not finance their campaigns.

I'm very concerned about how far this Council will go to implement its agenda. Under a new Chief they can control, will they start staging fake crimes and filing exaggerated police reports to scare us?

Mister Earl said...

Regarding yesterday's photo: That little building has always been intriguing For years it hosted a business called South Stampadena, which sold rubber stamps that you use with ink pads. You know the creative ones that some people can turn into amazing artistic creations? For awhile, it hosted Castle Photography, which had three different locations before it finally closed. That's the kind of building that's obscure and out of the way that makes me wonder, "How can someone really stay in business there?" I presume the Stampadena place was more of a hobby than a business, and Castle was always up against too much competition to really do well.

Petrea said...

When are the next elections?

Yakpate said...

My fear for beautiful South Pas is that a big-money hidden agenda is driving the Council's actions. It's hard to understand why the Council would ignore the Tsunami of public opinion in support of Chief Dan... unless its members expect a payoff.

I can think of plenty of big-money interests that would destroy the character of the city without a thought... like a military installation or a 10-story megachurch or a Walmart... something that would pollute, or create traffic congestion, or cancel "No Cussing" day. If and when such a big-money interest rolls in, don't bother taking the Council to task... its members will already have transferred their bank accounts to the Caymens and/or taken up residence in Dubai.

alex said...

thanks Laurie for updating us on the police chief debacle. a video/propaganda show from FOX news about violent crime at a city council meeting? really, Big Brother? i should e-mail my former English Lit teacher and ask her to make 1984 required reading at SPHS.

When that homicide occurred on Arroyo Dr earlier this year, Mike Ten had commented on how the shooting was uncharacteristic of the city and that we had a very low violent crime rate. Apparently between then and now, his perspective has taken a complete 180.

All these polemics are particularly interesting to me because I grew up with the kids of these council members--Ten, Putnum, and Schneider--from 1st to 12th grade. It's my hope that these council members, whose children have been home grown in this community, won't compromise South Pas for their own political games. But I suppose, once a politician, always a politician.

Cafe Pasadena said...

I have news for you: So Pasa politicians follow a deep tradition around the globe of deaf politicians and public opinion.
Of course, we're not strictly a democracy, and that's good.

Who elected these characters anyway??

Mike Ten said...

Not only did my sons graduate from SPHS, so did I. Unfortunately rumors and so called insider information and assumptions multiply and amplify under conditions found in blogs. Every person who has personally contacted me and discussed these have had their concerns addressed. it doesnt mean agreement on issues but an understanding. as for the video clip see Laurie link to Ostrig Feeder.. for my comments there. Yes I commented that "murder" is out of character for SP but it has happened twice.. I never brushed it off as no big deal. I you really knew me you'd know I have made student and public safety my first priority.
again keep up the great photos and comments on our great city.....

Mister Earl said...

It's times like this when a mantra comes in handy. Breathe, Earl, Breathe! (I'll be back.)

Mister Earl said...

Address this, Mr. Ten:

Concern 1: How have you addressed the concerns of the nearly 300 citizens who came forward to support Chief Watson?

Concern 2: Please list the names, dollar amounts, and percentages of the total, of all the individuals and entities that contributed to your last campaign.

Concern 3: When you were at South Pasadena High did you learn the word,"demagoguery"?
It's defined as a strategy for gaining political power by appealing to the prejudices, emotions, and fears of the public. Showing a video about crime and how dangerous it is to be a police officer at a time when crime is in fact down and right after participating in the groundless removal of a police chief is demagoguery.

We have a lot more concerns Mr. Ten. We could go on all night. Instead we'll just go on for the next 20 months. How's that?

Mister Earl said...

Petrea: 20 months.

Mister Earl said...

Here's another concern, Mr. Ten, in song:

click here

Mike Ten said...

Final comments to Mr Earl
Laurie I'm sorry for injecting into your world of fabulous photos and insightful observations of our city.
Comment 1: I address all 25,000 resident's concerns in public every 1st and 3rd Wednesdays 1410 Mission 7:30 pm
Comment 2: it is public information available at City Hall. You will see that my campaigns gathered and spent the least or second to the least of all candidates in each race.
Comment 3: I was a pretty decent student but thanks for the refresher political tactics, again my campaign materials are available also you can point out the "demagoguery" ..
I see Feeder either is not available to post my comment there or is electing to not publish opposing comments.

At least Laurie is willing to show up in person to address the City Council. Hats off to her...

Yes Petrea November of 2011

Mister Earl said...

Yes, Laurie is the best! Isn't that awesome? But, somehow, you managed to ignore her and dozens of others!

Mister Earl said...

Be sure to tune in tomorrow, kids, when our Word of the Day will be ... "Disingenuous."

Laurie said...

Hi everybody,

Councilmen Ten, you are welcome here and may comment at any time. This blog has become a community meeting place of sorts. Alex's, YakPate's and Mister Earl's comments are representative of many South Pas residents who have either commented or sent me email. I'm sure everyone would appreciate a conversation.

In fact, many of my readers feel that the council chamber has become an echo chamber of the same unanswered questions from the gallery.

Personally, my main concern is that Chief Watson -- a fine public servant with an exemplary record and a personal integrity we should all aspire to possess -- has been treated abysmally. His life's work was used as a pawn in some as-yet-unexplained political game.

It. Is. Wrong.

When he finally retired and then said he would not take back the job if asked, we were upset. We wanted him to stay and fight. But he refused to allow this situation to further rip apart the community or erode the morale of his department. The council could have just stepped back and possibly shaken their heads at their unexpected good fortune. Instead, you chose to show a scaremongering video as some sort of after-the-fact, read-between-the-lines explanation for the council's actions. It was a knife in Chief Watson's back as he walked away.

Maybe this was just something advised by experts called in to clean up a mess -- those who have been swimming in the political pool for so long they don't care who drowns. Maybe it was just standard government spin. We get it. But we don't have to like it.

We are reasonable people. We don't need videos right out of the pages of The Shock Doctrine. And we don't want anymore doublespeak. Sure, we understand legalities, but we also recognize obfuscation. Most of all, we want to feel that we are heard.

We wanted to trust you guys. After all, we elected you to govern a city we love with values that represent us. How nice it would have been if months ago just one of you stood up and said, "You know, we really screwed up. And it's our responsibility to fix it." It would have given us reason to listen to the council without feeling like we were being snowed. I know, I'm naive, right? Those kinds of political speeches only happen in Frank Capra movies. Or in Mayberry.

But isn't that where we live?

I am grateful for a forum to speak MY mind. I encourage you to speak yours, too.

That goes for all of you. Until tomorrow, everyone.

Anonymous said...

Laurie, you sum up what my wife and I feel so well. Thank you for putting a well said voice to an important issue.

Mister Earl said...

Anonymous: Keep those thoughts, and spread the word amongst your friends. We've got to teach these guys a resounding lesson in democracy.

Barbara said...

I am very disappointed in our city council, and very disappointed that we are losing Chief Watson. I'm grateful for your blog: both your beautiful pictures and the free and honest information. Wish you were my councilmember, you and Mr. Earl. I'm serious.