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Politics of the Macabre

Photo by Larry Hirshowitz

Taking a page from last November’s macabre re-election bid by the late Sheriff Sherman Block, Councilman Nate Holden is claiming an endorsement from beyond the grave as he seeks a fourth term on April 13. In campaign literature, Holden says the popular but ailing former Mayor Tom Bradley gave him the nod shortly before his death last September.

"On the occasion of their last meeting, (Bradley) made a commitment to ask the residents of the 10th District to support Councilman Nate Holden for his last term," said the March 26 letter signed by Bradley "confidant" (and former political aide) Bill Elkins. "If former Mayor Tom Bradley were with us today, be certain that this request would personally come from him."

Now, Bradley in life had a turbulent relationship with Holden, culminating in the councilman’s strident 1989 bid to unseat the mayor. One source said the "endorsement" followed Holden’s repeated bedside importunings to an enfeebled Bradley, who, with tears in his eyes, finally gave in without knowing who would oppose Holden.

"I cried when I saw this . . .," the source, a longtime Bradley associate, said of the letter. "After all the terrible stuff he said about Bradley . . . We hated Nate Holden. He said things about Tom Bradley that would make your head spin."

While Bill Elkins did not return calls, Councilman Holden assured OffBeat the endorsement was legitimate. "The letter is self-explanatory," Holden said, adding, "He said he wanted to see Nate Holden re-elected." Asked how Bradley, by then speechless after two strokes, made his affection for Holden known, the candidate said the former mayor signaled his appeal.

"He nodded his head, like a thumbs up," Holden remembered.

It’s not the first time Holden has linked himself to the revered Bradley’s legacy. In the councilman’s successful 1995 re-election campaign — the last one in which Bradley was in full control of both his body and mind — Holden sent out pictures of himself with the former mayor. Bradley, however, endorsed opponent Stan Sanders. Madison Shockley, Holden’s main challenger this time, called Holden’s endorsement claim "presumptuous at best" and "exploitative at worst." Holden’s explanation for Bradley’s deathbed turnaround? "Bygones are bygones."

—Eric Pape

FORTRESS HIGH

 

Hollywood High student Antovonne Hammork frowned last week as she watched workers weld iron bars topped with curved spikes to the posts in back of her school. "I don’t like them," said Hammork. "They make us seem like caged animals and it makes our school look uglier, like we’re in prison." The new 9-foot-high bars are designed to stop vandals who repeatedly cut the old chainlink fence, Hollywood Vice Principal Dick Rippey said. The $91,000 project is funded in part by a $2.4 billion school-maintenance bond passed in 1997. Other L.A. Unified schools enclosed by the penal-style fortifications include Dorsey, University and Jordan highs. "In general, the schools are happy with them," Julie Crum, director of maintenance at L.A. Unified, told OffBeat.

But what about the kids? Although Dorsey Principal Nancy Rene said bars went up at her southwest L.A. campus because of "violence issues," there is little evidence that the fortifications make schools safer. In 1998, the year after installation, reports of loitering and trespassing at Dorsey more than doubled — from 5 to 11 — and property crimes (theft and vandalism) edged up slightly, from 39 to 42. Rene says she also likes the fence because "it’s making students stay in school." The rod-iron design, a brainchild of L.A. Unified’s Central Shops, features spiked tips curved in a "shepherd’s hook," so students trying to ditch class don’t impale themselves. But school board member David Tokofsky says bars are exactly the wrong way to fight truancy.

"We’re not reinforcing the right message about community involvement, the message of schooling as freedom to learn, not as a place you have to be at by law," Tokofsky said. And even as an anti-breakout device, the bars may be a failure. Several Hollywood students were itching to demonstrate to OffBeat that jumping the fence would be easier now because of the new horizontal bars where students can rest on the way up and over.

What the fence will do is prevent people in park-starved Hollywood from using the school fields after hours. As OffBeat walked away from the installation site, we thought back sadly to 1969, when we tried out our first pair of Adidas on the Hollywood High track, beneath the huge mural of a sheik (the dashing school mascot). The racket of helicopters overhead broke our reverie, and we heard one of the workers mumble "cochinero," which translates loosely as "nasty." "It means there are pigs inside," said Hollywood High guard Edwin Sinecio.

—Ronnie Cohen

dead man standing

 

In a ruling that could affect other death-row cases in California, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a lower-court finding that allows a mentally unstable inmate a federal appeal, despite his attorneys’ failure to meet a new federal filing deadline.

By refusing to review a decision made last December by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court has cleared the way for attorneys for Horace Edwards Kelly to argue that their client’s constitutional rights were violated during his arrest and trials for the 1984 murders of three people in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Kelly’s trip to the death chamber, which was scheduled for last spring, was delayed by a series of remarkable events, including an unprecedented pre-execution sanity trial triggered by the warden’s doubts that the inmate was mentally fit to die. The scope of the court’s decision is unclear, though both Kelly’s attorneys and the state Attorney General’s Office agree that at least 40 cases would be affected. A broad interpretation would open the door for reconsideration of all cases in which the federal appeals process was already underway when the new filing deadline was imposed. Or the ruling may apply only to cases complicated by questions of mental competency.

In Kelly’s case, the decision allows his attorneys to argue both that his police confession was involuntary and that his original lawyers were incompetent. They will also revisit questions about his sanity. U.S. Assistant Public Defender David Fermino says he last visited Kelly a month ago, and found his client confused and disoriented. "He didn’t remember who I was," Fermino says. "He was extremely disheveled, could not write his name and did not know what day it was." The ultimate goal, Fermino says, is to reduce Kelly’s sentence to life without possibility of parole and move him to a penal mental institution. "Mr. Kelly is so badly brain-damaged that he needs to be taken care of," Fermino says. "Unfortunately, the California Department of Corrections is not equipped to do that."

—Sara Catania

one love RADIO

 

The latest programming paroxysm at kpfk has some radioheads wondering if the progressive but sometimes befuddled station has a new theme song: "Mama Don’t Allow No Hip-Hop Music ’Round Here." Two prime-time music shows on the listener-sponsored station bit the dust last week, and the unpaid volunteer programmers who left say it’s because of management’s aversion to rap and youth culture. DJ Dusk, whose Tuesday 8 to 10 p.m. show, The Bridge, featured reggae, rare ’70s soul, salsa and hip-hop, was fired and replaced by a rap-free format, he said.

Carlos Niño, whose All at One Point aired Wednesday nights from 8 to 10 p.m., said he quit after receiving an order to stop playing hip-hop. Managers also asked him to limit his patter to a minute and to drop his use of such phrases as "peace and love" and "one love," which they said were alienating an older audience. (Hey, OffBeat could have sworn we heard that "peace" thing once or twice back in the ’60s, but we could be wrong.) The love talk ban was later lifted, but Niño — at 22, one of the younger programmers on KPFK (and a Weekly contributor) — elected not to continue his edgy mix of noncommercial hip-hop and world music. "It’s not like I was playing sell-that-dope-and-go-shoot-your-neighbor crap," Niño said. "I do not want to bring KPFK down. It is the most progressive station around with a real potential to be a community voice . . . But I do not support what the station management is doing. They basically didn’t like what I consider my youthfulness, colorfulness and life affirmation."

The axings are part of the chronically underfunded station’s move toward slicker, "eclectic" programming to entice a more upscale KCRW-type audience; both Dusk and Niño acknowledge they were not top fund-raisers. But is killing hip-hop, arguably the biggest money-maker in commercial radio, the answer? General manager Mark Schubb said hip-hop will continue on late-night programs, but it was not drawing an audience in the earlier slots.

"The majority of our listeners, and of our donors, are not 18 years old," Schubb said."It’s wonderful to bring youth into the mix, but it’s never going to be the focus of what we do."

"Rap is the music I and a lot of other people grew up with," said Dusk, a La Habra native. "Now it’s the one style of music missing from the equation."


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