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GUESS YOU HAD TO BE THERE
Re: “Pre-empting the Pre-emptors” [City Limits, April 21–27]. Since, by his own admission, Marc Haefele did not attend the neighborhood-council meeting in Echo Park that he covered for the L.A. Weekly, I’d like to help set the re cord for that meeting straight. I live in the area, attended the meeting and know the vast majority of so-called “outsiders” who spoke at the meeting. They too live in the area. They may not be the people one would typically encounter at local association meetings, but they care enough that neighborhood councils represent the interests of renters, working-class families and non-English-speakers (among others) that they turned out for this meeting. Rather than derogatorily noting that these folks were “unfamiliar to the usual workshop crowd” (based, undoubtedly, on the word of people who think that this crowd is the only crowd that matters), Haefele and others should be thrilled that a diversity of residents came to the meeting. That’s rather the point of successful systems of civic engagement, isn’t it?
Had Haefele attended the meeting, he would have understood that the principal source of resident concern was the facilitators’ insistence that everyone break into groups based on language. DONE [Department of Neighborhood Empowerment] representatives wanted all English speakers to meet in small groups in one place and all Spanish speakers to meet in small groups elsewhere (literally, in the back of the room). If DONE representatives had had any working knowledge of this community, they would have known that this would not be a successful model for a meeting here.
DONE representatives should have had the community-organizing and meeting-facilitation skills to adapt to the preferences expressed by residents at these meetings. As it is, there were not enough translators (contrary to Haefele’s report) to allow for small, mixed-language discussion groups at the Echo Park meeting, so residents chose the best of two possibilities, neither of which was ideal. They chose to meet together with one translator for a stilted conversation, rather than in separate English-speaking and Spanish-speaking groups. Everyone was shortchanged in the process.
Finally, Haefele seems miffed that there was a “pre-existing plan” for this meeting that residents wouldn’t follow, but he does not tell readers that this plan was established solely by DONE. Nor does he note that there was no system in place for residents — whose decision-making powers should begin with decisions about the structure and agenda for their own meetings — to modify this plan in advance of the meeting. Residents had little choice but to make their concerns about the meeting’s format known at the meeting.
—Amy Elaine Wakeland
Echo Park/Silver Lake
FROM LAST TUESDAY’S SWEEPINGS
Harold Meyerson’s “Enter the Janitors” [April 14–20] answered the age-old question of why Democrats and assorted pseudo-liberals support hikes in the minimum wage. When wages rise, so do union dues and taxes. Unions have more money to spend. Government has more money to spend. Everyone wins, right?
The fallacy of the janitors’ demand for a wage hike was that it ignored simple economics. Inevitably, the wage hike will drive up the cost of nearly everything. Unskilled jobs are not supposed to be lifelong positions. They prepare an employee for entry into the job market or the next career step. Want a better job? Get the training, degree or credential.
While Joseph Treviño’s story “Scab Patrol” [April 21–27], about janitors on strike, was very moving, I cannot help but be unmoved. Alvaro Reyes is an illegal immigrant and therefore taking employment away from a legal American. Someone once said to me that if you gatecrash a party as an uninvited guest, don’t complain to the host about the food.
—David Stuart Gibbs
Think about this: The strike is on Spanish-language TV. What do you think the effect will be when the other Latinos see how much they can earn in the United States by being a janitor? Who wouldn’t want to come north and earn 10 bucks an hour? But then there are more workers than there are jobs, and those workers are hungry and need to find work, so they work for less, and pretty soon, Mr. Reyes is out of a job. Get the picture? What goes around comes around.
Re: “Janitors Strike Update” [April 14–20]. I volunteer with a charity called Food on Foot. We serve meals and distribute food in Venice and Hollywood every weekend. What I’ve noticed is that most of the people are not homeless, but working poor. When I started helping out, I noticed the same families showing up each week, people who work hard and barely get by.
The ironic thing is that although I supported the janitors’ strike, the strike inadvertently affected Food on Foot. We do fund-raisers downtown, but during the strike we were unable to hold one. So I wanted to request your assistance in getting the word out about what we are doing. We are short on cash, and we still owe money for the hot meals we provide. Any help will be appreciated. For further information, call (310) 442-0088, or e-mail us at www.foodonfoot.com.
Your open support of striking workers — food drop-offs, strike updates, etc. — was noble, but it wasn’t good journalism. You crossed the line between reporting the news and participating in it.
Marina del Rey
FULL OF . . . WHATEVER
Regarding Carol Lynn Mithers’ review of Full of Life: A Biography of John Fante by Stephen Cooper [“A Walk on the Wild Side,” April 7–13], I can’t believe a paper which takes itself as seriously as the L.A. Weekly would allow a review to appear by a “critic” who is so shallow, dense and self-serving. When Mithers claims in her article that “it’s also unclear how much active interviewing or digging Cooper did,” it is embarrassingly apparent that Mithers did not really read the book. If she had, she would have noticed over 50 pages of notes and the names of more than 300 people whom Cooper acknowledges at the end of his book.
As much as I hate to say so, I’m afraid Thom Jones (The Pugilist at Rest), Jay Martin (Nathanael West: The Art of His Life) and the growing number of others who’ve endorsed my biography of John Fante will only shake their heads in derision at the botched assassination attempt upon Full of Life. “The problems start with structure,” declares the matter-of-factoid Ms. Mithers, whose first shot at faulting the book (for allegedly “laying out Fante’s story along strictly chronological lines”) fatally wounds her in her own foot. I understand how an occasional contributor anxious to please this or that editor might skip words, even paragraphs, as she speed-reads her way toward a deadline. In her rush to discredit my five years of work on the book, however, Ms. Mithers surrenders all claim to credibility, for she has vaulted over far more than mere paragraphs. For example, she fails to notice nothing less than the whole of Chapter 1, which starts in 1960, flashes back through the eras of Hannibal, Ovid, and Fante’s 19th-century ancestors, then forward to the 1990s before arriving at the year of Fante’s birth, 1909 — hardly the strict chronology that Ms. Mithers misrepresents as underpinning the structure of the book. Yet it’s on this muzzy premise that Ms. Mithers props up the rest of her rant. Reasonable readers will decide whether Ms. Mithers’ subsequent points, including one touching attempt at personal slur, meet the minimum critical standard of intellectual honesty.
As for the mysterious “local writer” whom Mithers hides behind her skirts even as she accuses me of being “just plain lazy”: The ventriloquist act is most unbecoming for a man in his position. Reputable newspapers print clarifications. If readers of the L.A. Weekly can’t count on getting a responsible review of my book, they at least deserve to know who is saying what.
California State University, Long Beach
NOTE:The “local writer” referred to is Weekly arts editor Tom Christie, whom Cooper places in Fante’s presence in his book but failed to interview. As for the charge of ventriloquism, Weekly editors facilitate opinion, not write it. The opinions expressed in Mithers’ review were her own.
Carol Lynn Mithers’ potshots at Stephen Cooper’s research were not only inaccurate, they were mean-spirited. Cooper did a fine job. His examination of my father’s past was meticulous to the point of annoyance. He became a Fante-family stalker and spent years plodding through interviews and poring over file cabinets full of coverless screenplays, cast-aside correspondence and unsifted junk. His biography of John Fante is first-rate in every regard.
POINT TAKEN, BUT SHOULDN’T THAT BE “WHASSUP”?
Re: “Welcome to the Nuttwerx” [April 14–20]. Yo, why you always gotta have a white guy writin’ about a brother? Your boy Frank Meyer made my bros in Fishbone sound like monkeys who can never “just get along.” What’s up with that?
This cover story on Fishbone was the bomb! I got turned on to Fishbone in the early ’90s and have often wondered why they haven’t blown up à la No Doubt. Anyone who has seen one of their live shows knows that these boys are (were?) bad! I wish them all the success they can stand.
WITHOUT POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE
Besides working on the film Ready To Rumble, I actually think it’s a great underdog comedy. Dave Shulman is entitled to his own opinion [see Calendar Film, Current Releases], but only if he has the professionalism to watch the entire film. Would you print a review by someone that only saw half the pieces at an art show? Or only read half of a book? Since he did not see the entire film, he is hardly credible on the subject. You should not have published that review.
I’m not saying that Ready To Rumble isn’t a bad movie (it is, although Mr. Shulman’s description of wrestling as “softcore gay porn” implies that he may be the wrong person to review a wrestling movie to begin with). But given that some people actually pay to see these films, and that others scrub urinals for $6 an hour, is it really so hard for Shulman to do what he’s been paid to do?
—Luke Y. Thompson