Every year at this time, I give readers a case of the Willys. I
don’t mean the feeling that comes from knowing my annual holiday poem
is imminent. These are the Willy Awards, the most anticipated awards
of the year. OK, maybe they’re the awards you forget about until
they’re here. But they’re here -- and you can’t stop them.
WILLY LITIGATE THE CUBS INTO THE WORLD SERIES? AWARD
When a judge recently agreed with airport arguments that patrons
of a new private parking structure can’t walk over an airport
easement to get to the airport, it was the first courtroom win in
memory for lawyers employed by the Airport Authority. From the
struggle with Burbank over terminal expansion to the airport’s recent
attempt to disengage itself from litigation over a doomed ballot
initiative, from the case that found the authority held an illegal
closed meeting to the period when airport lawyers OK’d taxpayers
paying for officials to take their families on junkets, a long parade
of judges and law enforcers have routinely rejected the airport’s
It’s puzzling the record has never prompted concern from
commissioners, including Burbank’s trio. All continue to unabashedly
declare various stands are premised upon “the advice of our lawyers,”
apparently unconcerned about where that advice has taken them in the
past. Still, folks patronizing a competitor to the airport’s
parking-concession cash cow, a challenge that forced the airport to
slash its parking rates, have been vanquished. But the court also
said customers can ride the private lot’s shuttle into the airport.
WILLY SELL HIS CHRISTMAS CARD LIST? AWARD
Remember campaign rhetoric from former Rep. Jim Rogan about his
public service coming at a great personal financial sacrifice?
Fortunately, voters saved him from that two years ago. But after a
grueling 10 weeks in the private sector, Rogan won a Bush White House
nod to run the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. That came with a job
as chief of staff for his blunderkind campaign manager, Jason Roe.
Rogan’s current $140,000 annual salary helps make up for his
earlier sacrifices. But a Washington Post story this month reported
Rogan found yet another payday, a sort of deferred compensation plan
from his last gig.
As one of the 12 House Managers prosecuting the impeachment of
President Clinton, Rogan had sterling credentials with conservatives,
many of whom contributed the millions spent by his failed reelection
campaign (and later coughed up the previously mentioned appointment.)
Republicans on the far right lust after Rogan’s campaign mailing
list, craving a shot at all those wealthy zip codes.
Alas, mailing lists are typically the property of the campaign,
not the candidate, and federal election law prohibits using them for
the candidate’s personal gain.
But according to the Washington Post, Rogan has disclosed
receiving between $15,000 and $50,000 for renting his list.
Citing claims from Roe, the Post reported that Rogan’s lawyers won
approval from federal officials for a unique loophole, one our former
representative is apparently the first to employ. He negotiated an
agreement with his campaign to share ownership of the list. Of
course, the campaign has to have received something of value in
exchange. Neither the former candidate nor his campaign revealed
details of the transaction, but a hint was provided when the Post
talked to a lawyer who helped set up Rogan’s deal. He explained a
candidate signing a fund-raising letter for his campaign qualifies as
something of value to the campaign.
Rogan’s political memorabilia collection is well known for his
campaign buttons and autographs.
Funny enough, the most valuable signature on a campaign letter in
his collection may be his own.
WILLY BE THE GADABOUT GADFLY? AWARD
Mayor David Laurell announced with fanfare that he wouldn’t run
for reelection in February because of a challenging new job. But just
as the filing period for candidates closed, Laurell’s new job went
south. Asked if he was kicking himself, Laurell told me he’d decided
not to run again long before the job prospect recently appeared. What
might otherwise sound like sour grapes was confirmed by others he
spoke to months ago.
The fact remains, Laurell might have some time for public service
he hadn’t expected, and he’s said he’s available for assignments and
appointments. Among those could be a seat on the Airport Authority,
and the thought of Laurell giving speeches at every meeting to the
appointees from Pasadena and Glendale is an idea some vengeful,
mischievous council members find very appealing. It’s not an idea
under serious consideration, so the conspiracy theorists can save
their hysterics. But if you see council members quietly smiling, they
might be replaying the fantasy in their minds.
WILLY OR WON’T HE? AWARD
If the question is about whether City Manager Bud Ovrom is leaving
after 17 years at City Hall’s helm, the answer has to be “yes.” But
the real question, which doesn’t fit in the “Willy” premise I didn’t
realize would be so constricting (and sexist) when I thought of it 13
years ago, is WHEN? Next month? Next year? Whichever proves accurate,
if Ovrom owes you a municipal favor, time is definitely running out
WILLY SUFFER AS HE SHOULD? AWARD
Last year my fury over the mess at the former “five points”
intersection by Costco led me to meet with Bruce Feng, Burbank’s
director of Public Works. He oversees the team installing
“improvements” there, infamous changes earning the clumsy new moniker
” four-and-a-half- points.”
I heard Feng’s plans for future adjustments, and learned about
challenges he’s faced. I left considerably calmed, and confident
improvements were on the way. One year later, virtually none of the
promises have been kept, and the junction is more gnarled than ever.
But compared to traffic fiascos elsewhere in town, the intersection
has remained static. Hollywood Way is so jammed it is essentially
useless during daytime hours for travel between Victory Boulevard and
the Ventura (134) Freeway. Buena Vista Street is headed the same way,
complicated by crews seemingly under orders to close lanes
exclusively during rush hours.
I keep trying to think of insults and tortures for Feng and his
team of experts and expensive consultants. But each time I have to
drive across town in the flatlands, I realize every idea I have falls
far short of what is deserved.
The Will Rogers Dancers fell ill while on our year-end cruise, so
we have to skip the big closing dance number, and that’s the end of
the 2002 Willy Awards extravaganza. Winners, please don’t leave your
trophies in the seats again this year.
* WILL ROGERS’ column appears in every edition of the Leader. He
can be reached 24 hours a day at 637-3200, voice mail ext. 906, or by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.