Best Place To Watch Democracy In Action (1999)
Hollywood City Commission
Just like sausage-making, it may not be pretty to see how government works, but it sure is instructive. The most entertaining show lately is in Hollywood, where the five combative commissioners perform on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. Crowds arrive in eager anticipation of a good scrum. Slick-suited lawyers and lobbyists clog the entranceway, cutting deals up to the last minute. The Pledge of Allegiance is recited, as in the prelude to a ball game. Rogues, cranks, and goody-goodies line up to testify, alternately flattering and blaspheming the commissioners. Every foreign accent can be heard, from New Yawkerese to comic-opera Italian, with most speakers invoking the lofty principles of American democracy to support their causes. The commissioners let no compliment or complaint go unanswered. Occasionally one will storm out in a snit. Then the real action begins. They joust for hours over whether to let their rich campaign contributors build giant hotels on unspoiled beaches. The city manager and his staff sit nearby, cringing, waiting for their masters to flog them. To end on an inspiring note, the commissioners invariably pass a resolution praising some beloved old person in the room, preferably a woman of color. You laugh, you cry, but what's the alternative?