Government: Only as Good as the People Who Run It

Graphic of how government should work.
Graphic of how government should work.

By James Preston Allen, Publisher

Complaining about government is kind of a birthright here in the “land of the free.” In fact, it’s probably more of a national pastime than all most anything else, including baseball. The big difference between baseball and politics is that players on the field have no apprehension about scratching their balls and spitting in public and the elected attempt to keep their bad behavior behind closed doors, except when they don’t. The current occupant of the Oval Office is the prime exception to politicians’ civil rule-of-thumb.

Others, however, just seem to step into it on their own volition. Our ever-smiling Councilman Joe Buscaino seems destined to the later course of dysfunction as his speech at the San Pedro High School graduation wandered down a path good intentions gone bad. In a Facebook apology, he writes:

My intention was to focus on misunderstanding and meaning in our culture today. As a gesture of good faith, here is the text of the entire speech for those who were not there, or for those of you who would like to review. My apologies to those who were not inspired by the intention of the speech.

Clearly his “inspiring words” missed the mark after the valedictorian speech by a homeless student who graduated at the top of his class. Buscaino’s words fell flat and elicited boos and groans from the audience, some of whom were visiting from the Midwest and later asked, “Exactly who is this guy”?

To the point of his speech Buscaino said, “You must know the difference between a credible source and propaganda. You must be accurate with your motivations and your intentions.”

“Does he even follow his own advice?” you might ask. His office thrives on the use of social media as a means to circumvent this media and has even stopped issuing regular press releases to our reporters and almost completely stopped answering our questions unless we put them into a formal Public Records Act Request to which they must comply. That Buscaino is now being vilified on some of the same social media platforms that he has used in the past regarding his failure to reopen the Channel Street Skatepark and then complains about this being “credible” is a kind of  live-by-the-sword-die-by-the-sword moment.

“Channel Street Skatepark here in San Pedro was built illegally without plans or permits,” he said. “It had to be closed down to add onto the 110 Freeway above it. The only way to open it legally is to create the missing blueprints in order to get the proper permitting. I fully support reopening Channel Street!”

It was, however, just this out-of-nowhere non-sequitur thrown into his speech that was jaw dropping and head scratching. Who writes his material or more importantly who edits this man?

Beyond the point of this issue’s irrelevance to the graduating class of 2018 and being less than an inspiring example of hope, all it explains to others who care about reopening the skate park, is the stupidity of demanding blueprints on a Do-It-Yourself project allowed to be built and then retroactively inspected after completion. It reminds some of us about how the City of Los Angeles once treated the construction of the Watts Towers. This is nothing more than one of several calamities of unintended consequences based on the ports expansion of the 110 Freeway to accommodate more truck traffic.

Rathan inspire the graduates, Buscaino’s speech exemplifies the dysfunction in government that he takes great pains to express in talking about honesty, integrity and communication.  And it’s not just this skate park; it’s the abrupt closure of the Croatian Cultural Center; it’s the screw up over Ports O’ Call redevelopment, his failure to protect the workers there, and the continued failure to deal squarely and honestly with the homeless crisis.

All of these issues call for leadership, which doesn’t always translate into great photo-ops for social media or a picture for the weekly Buscaino email report with a by line from a sympathetic reporter. It does demand getting government agencies and the aggrieved parties to come together to solve problems. It demands a fair arbiter and often being the advocate for the disadvantaged to help them speak their truth to the power of government or corporate greed. And that my friend takes real courage and dedication.

In the end Buscaino deserves some credit for his apology, recognizing the failure of this speech, but it seems quite apparent that San Pedro High School should extend the invitation for someone else to speak at next year’s graduation that is perhaps more up to the job of being inspirational.

Click here to read Buscaino’s speech and apology.