Ernani Bernardi, frequently the Los Angeles City Council's lone dissenting vote, celebrated 25 years at City Hall Friday the best way he knew how. He cast the only "no" vote on a spending issue.
It was an appropriate end to a day in which the 74-year-old mid-San Fernando Valley councilman was honored by his colleagues for being a "tireless watchdog of the public's money . . ."
Bernardi's tenure on the council is second longest in city history. Retired Council President John S. Gibson served 30 years.
During the two-hour ceremony, the council presented Bernardi with the "no" voting button from his desk which Councilman John Ferraro quipped was "worn out" from overuse.
Ferraro presented Bernardi with a resolution poking fun at "the council's official curmudgeon." The resolution said Bernardi had been named "Miser Magazine's 'Man of the Year.' "
On a more serious note, former Councilman Arthur K. Snyder delivered a tribute to Bernardi as "one of those great naysayers who, in every democracy, is one of the most necessary increments to a representative government."
Recalls Early Advice
Snyder recalled the advice his predecessor, former Councilman John Holland, gave him when he took his seat on the council in 1967.
"He said, 'Watch Ernani Bernardi,' " Snyder said. "He fights for what he believes in.' "
Snyder read a long list of Bernardi's accomplishments, including his sponsorship of a campaign reform law, rent control, pension controls and repeal of the city's controversial prevailing wage. He also described Bernardi as a compassionate man who one Christmas cooked beans for the homeless in the City Hall kitchen.
Several musicians who played with Bernardi when he was a saxophonist with Benny Goodman and Kay Kyser in the Big Band era played a few tunes.
Bernardi, with his wife of 53 years, Lucille, at his side, told the crowd: "I don't know who is responsible for disrupting the city business for this . . . but I'd be less than honest if I didn't tell you I was very pleased and very flattered."
Afterward, Bernardi's staff threw a party in the councilman's office. Bernardi characteristically suggested his staff take the leftovers to Skid Row to feed the homeless.