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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.