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People & Places

BEST POLITICAL-OBSERVATION PERCH Los Angeles 2009 

John Ferraro Council Chamber

L.A. City Council meetings will either enrage you or increase your trust in politicians (though we doubt that), but they're nothing if not entertaining, as the council chronically tries to cut, censor and shush the "public-comment" period. Led by City Council President Eric Garcetti — the young, ever-smiling Golden Boy with an Ivy League education — these often bizarrely comedic meetings take place in a one-of-a-kind, high-ceilinged venue: the ornate John Ferraro Council Chamber. Once inside, you take a seat in a pew, as if you're attending church, but what unfolds is anything but worshipful. Frequent public commenters such as Zuma Dogg, Noel Weiss and John Walsh let it rip, with television cameras capturing their often witty and noisy protests against political corruption and ineptitude. For first-timers who venture downtown with the notion of commenting in the naive belief that the 15 council members actually listen to citizens who show up, the show is usually a bit of an eye-opener. The newcomers don't always understand why their fellow citizens are so completely outraged. But the newbies listen, watch and begin to realize that the political system is closed to them, which has spawned L.A.'s version of Speakers Corner. Well, it's not really on a corner — you stand at a microphone facing a semicircle of politicians who utterly ignore you. The grand-staircase entrance to City Hall on Spring Street is permanently closed (they're worried about terrorists), so enter on Main Street. John Ferraro Council Chamber, 401 S. Hope St., Room 340, L.A. Tues., Wed. & Fri., 10 a.m.

—Patrick Range McDonald

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