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Signs point to confusion about names

AS IF YOU ASKED

There might be a million stories in the Naked City, but the figure

is closer to 105,000 in Burbank. One can’t help wonder: How many of

those tales could possibly share a leading character with the last

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name “Porco”? Apparently, the answer is at least two.

Michael Porco is a 30-year-old graduate student running for the

City Council. He says he has a degree in political science, and is

looking for a master’s in school-based family counseling. He’s lived

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in Burbank only since 2000. Some Burbank voters are accustomed to

picking nearly lifetime residents as candidates, folks whose

grandchildren have lived in Burbank longer than Porco has.

But because of his last name, some have wrongly guessed Porco’s

roots are deeper than they are. Given the unusual circumstances, he’s

probably better off being perceived as a newcomer.

The name Porco became well known in Burbank’s City Hall through

the 1990s, when a longtime resident named Don Porco routinely

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contacted council members, other city officials, and even this

columnist in a quest to see his son given a city job. The senior

Porco was convinced someone had blackballed his son from city

employment, and for years lobbied anyone who would listen to wield

some influence to see the junior Porco hired. When candidate Porco

came along, many assumed he must be the seldom-seen son.

Adding to his local reputation, Don Porco became an activist, and

worked especially hard supporting a couple of candidates for council.

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Unfortunately, after those candidates won and the younger Porco still

wasn’t hired by the city, Porco began criticizing the same men he

backed. In 1998, Don Porco joined with another local gadfly to sue

the city and several officials. They charged the city was involved in

a “joke line” telephone operation that had a local wag ridiculing

City Council critics. Their lawsuit demanded millions of dollars, and

alleged a variety of civil-rights abuses. Porco was especially irate

that the recordings, changed almost daily, often made fun his name.

The case ultimately was dismissed, with Porco, his fellow

plaintiff and their attorney jointly ordered to pay legal fees

amassed by the city to defend itself in a lawsuit deemed to have been

frivolous. With the bill climbing near $100,000, in 2000 the lawyer

attempted to appeal the ruling, and at one point said he was being

victimized by the mental incompetence of his own clients. That appeal

and others were rejected, but the bill remains unpaid today. Lawyers

for the city are said to be waiting for the day any assets owned by

the trio change hands.

Local notoriety of the name Porco means council candidate Michael

Porco has faced a lot of questions.

“People are always asking me if I’m any relation to Don Porco,”

the candidate told me. “But no one will tell me why. One of these

days I’ll get around to looking into it.”

I went ahead and told him why.

“I’m not related to the other Porcos in Burbank, but I would like

to talk to them sometime to learn more about the family name,” Porco

said.

He should probably wait until after the election.

SIGNS, SIGNS, EVERYWHERE ARE SIGNS

The number of signs seen for a particular candidate is not an

accurate reflection of the candidate’s chances. One or two candidates

from virtually every council election in the past decade will confirm

that for me. That said, it is amazing to see the number of yard signs

going up for some of the council and school board candidates, and

it’s just as notable that some front-runners appear to be virtually

invisible.

As an example, if you see a sign for one of the three school board

incumbents seeking reelection, one that isn’t in front of their own

homes or those of immediate neighbors, let me know. Richard Raad won

permission from a supporter who owns several commercial and apartment

properties in town to put signs outside those buildings, but I’ve

otherwise yet to come across a sign for him, or his colleagues Elena

Hubbell and Mike McDonald.

Jef Vander Borght, who holds a council seat he was appointed to,

has been walking neighborhoods and posting signs, backed by a team of

experienced hands who have walked the same streets many times for

other candidates.

I discounted it when I saw the first signs come up for council

candidate Brian Malone, because he lives near my house, so I was

seeing his signs on a daily basis. But they are rapidly spreading

elsewhere. And just try moving 10 feet without coming across the

literature boasting of his having been endorsed by Mayor David

Laurell. Read the literature, and you’ll see the men apparently share

the same affection for flowery, over-the-top prose. These guys never

just “like” or “support” anything. They can only “feel privileged” to

tell us they have “a deep and abiding love” for all manner of people

and concepts.

Gary Bric’s council campaign signs are beginning to pop up all

over, which is too bad. Save for the work of the infamous Vlad the

Impaler, I think Bric’s signs are about the ugliest things ever stuck

on a wooden post. The basic color is one known by many names, none of

them flattering, and he’s chosen to include artwork of a city skyline

that, if it’s not a duplicate, at least resembles the logo for his

local restaurant. (It’s technically in Los Angeles, incidentally, not

Burbank.) Beside the logo are the words “Solid as a rock.”

Like people who assure us they are classy, honest or ethical, I

rarely doubt someone until they begin advertising how solid they are.

Signs for council candidate Vahe Hovenessian sprouted last week,

and someone driving past quickly might have assumed they advertise

Laurell or Malone. They’re so crowded with colors and words that one

has to study them to take it all in.

School board candidate Dave Kemp has to be the all-time champ in

terms of numbers so far, and his signs are so straightforward and

conventional that even I can’t make fun of them.

Please let me know which signs you see and notice, and keep

sending me copies of the literature you receive from all the

candidates.

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 will.rogers@latimes. com or willrogersemail@earthlink. net.


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