At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, the bureaucracy
triumphed again over fair play and common sense.

Some weeks ago, a group of beach workers and their supporters asked the Council to change their status from “as needed” to permanent, so they would have job security, could engage in collective bargaining and have an opportunity to move up to better jobs and pay raises.

They weren’t asking for favors or advantages, they were asking for equity.

As they and their supporters noted, they had worked on the beach for years, and done their work faithfully and well, but their status, “as needed,” meant they could be let go at any time or for any reason or no reason, and they could-
n’t qualify for permanent jobs, better jobs or higher wages.

At that meeting, Human Resources Director Donna Peter clearly opposed the workers’ request, seeming to rank the civil service system itself, which was developed in the 19th century to protect helpless workers from rapacious employers, over the needs of the beach workers.

She took the classic bureaucratic line – if we make an exception for them, we’ll have to make exceptions for others and jeopardize the entire system, etcetera.

But, ultimately, the Council seemed to agree with the workers. They had done their work well and faithfully and had earned the right to be treated as permanent employees.

We assumed, as did the workers themselves and the people who spoke on their behalf, that the City would take the necessary steps to change the status of the workers and treat them as full employees.

We were wrong. It turned out that interim City Manager Elaine Polachek had denied an appeal filed by the Inter-national Workers of the World to establish a collective bargaining unit to represent 11 beach workers.

Deep in nitpicking territory, Ms. Peter claimed that the fact that all 11 worked on the beach did not qualify them as a “unit,” according to an ordinance, as they could be moved, depending on circumstances beyond their control,to another location. They’ve worked on the beach for years, but any day now they might to move – to what? A parking structure?

Over 1700 people are employed by the City, but Ms. Peter seemed to think that the 11 beach workers’ request might “fragment the workforce” and render it less efficient.

After some discussion, Council member Sue Himmelrich made
a motion, seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Tony Vazquez, that the
Council approve the beach workers’ petition to organize, saying, “They aren’t represented and nobody has stepped forward to represent them but IWW. I think we should reco-
gnize them as a bargaining unit.”

Council member Pam O’Connor countered with a substitute motion, denying IWW permission to represent the workers. Council member Terry O’Day seconded O’Connor’s motion saying, “We’ve heard from our staff and I think this is a critical factor.”

Voting with O’Connor and O’Day to defeat the beach workers’ request were Mayor Kevin McKeown and Council member Ted Winterer.


An extraordinary exhibition currently at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, “Coney Island Visions of American Dreamland:1861-2006” includes “SIDESHOW, a Coney Island-inspired contemporary art companion piece to the special exhibition by Michael McMillen, a truly original and brilliant artist who has lived and worked in Santa Monica all his life.

The Coney Island theme has imbued his work for most of his life, He was born in Los Angeles, but when he was 11, in the summer of 1957, his father took him to New York to visit his own youthful Greenwich Village haunts. The artist has held onto indelible images of that trip for the past half century, particularly taking the train out to Coney Island where he visited the crumbling Steeplechase Park.

McMillen explains: “There, somewhere within the complex of worn rides and faded attractions, I recall visiting a walk-through display tunnel of life-size tableaux depicting famous murders and other social malfunctions. It was both strangely fascinating and familiar. Growing up in Santa Monica, the Ocean Park Pier held a powerful draw for me, made even more attractive because of my grandmother’s admonitions to ‘STAY AWAY!’ The carnival facade was a thin cover for the faded dreams and gross depravity that one would read about in the local tabloids. There was something about this unexpected encounter with the terrible side of human nature and the crudely sensational way it was depicted that was simultaneously riveting, repellent, and haunting.

“Years later as a young artist thinking about how to engage an audience, I recalled and recognized the power of the immersive environment.”

In SIDESHOW, McMillen plans to create such a space through moving shadows, light, and wall projections that create an atmospheric setting for a collection of unusual curiosities and mysterious artifacts. Looking back at his previous 40 years as a working artist, he plans to integrate some of the objects from his 1973 UCLA MFA project, The Traveling Mystery Museum, including a fragment of the Mystery Mummy and Hannah the Fortune Telling Mouse. The alluring installations Lighthouse (Hotel New Empire) (2010) and Terminal (2014) will also be featured in the exhibition.

I first saw McMillen’s work at the Whitney Museum in New York and was immediately and eternally captivated. Later,
I saw exhibits of his work at the Long Beach Museum of Art, and wherever his works turned up. He is an exquisite craftsman, but it is his portrayal of things that I find truly dazzling, and irresistible. .

Hartford is a humdrum sort of town, the “insurance cap-
ital,” but, in addition to the Atheneum, Mark Twain’s mansion – intact and very fancy and the Alcott family’s
far more modest digs are there, and the great, late Katherine Hepburn lived her entire life there – but for her occasional, sometime extended stays in director George Cukor’s guest house.

The exhibition opened last month and will run through May.

McMillen is represented by L.A. Louver Gallery in Venice. which is currently showing a new sculpture by him. .


For the last four weeks, Capital & Main has plumbed the depths of the most foundational problem facing our state: rampant economic inequality. We went on a road trip from Palm Springs to Silicon Valley, reporting in real time on what inequality looks like at the ground level. We looked at how inequality affects every dimension of our lives, from education to nutrition to our natural environment. And we looked at who is most responsible for exacerbating economic polarization and standing in the way of solutions.

Now, in our final week, we take a look at the future: what can be done to fix our current predicament, and what might happen if we fail to meet the challenge?

Check out renowned political journalist Joe Mathews’ meditation on what our state’s future could look like decades from now — for better and for worse.

Then read Judith Lewis Mernit’s list of ten crucial things activists in California have done to build a path toward a more equal society in our state.

Finally, take a look at USC sociologist Manuel Pastor’s essay, co-written with Dan Braun, on the dozen most important steps we need to take right now to start to rebuild California’s disappearing middle class.

—Danny Feingold
Publisher, Capital & Main


Walmart may be making national headlines with announce-
-ment of pay raises. But here’s the bottom line about inequality in California: Half of the state’s nearly 15 million workers don’t earn enough from their primary jobs to afford a modest standard of living for a family of
four – even with two full-time breadwinners.

That leaves millions of Californians and their families with a set of bad choices. At the heart of the problem is the fact that too many very large and very profitable businesses are failing to pay their employees enough to live a decent life.

Check out our new infographic on California’s lopsided economy, and read Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Gary Cohn’s story about the top five corporations driving inequality in the Golden State.

Then check out the rest of Capital & Main’s special month-long series, “State of Inequality.”

Misfortune 500: How One Economist Exposed a Dirty Corporate Secret

The Ghost of Howard Jarvis: Why Corporations Still Love Prop. 13

—Danny Feingold
Publisher, Capital & Main


Anticipating the future closure of all or part of the Santa Monica Airport,Santa Monica Airport2Park Foundation, a 501
(c)(3) tax exempt, non-profit corporation, has been formed to advocate for building a great park on the airport land. The formation of the foundation comes after the November election when Santa Monica voters rejected Measure D, an aviation industry initiative designed to stop any efforts to close or reduce flight operations at the airport, and overwhelmingly passed Measure LC, a measure that calls for replacing the airport with a park.

The president of the new foundation is Neil Carrey, who has long been a mainstay of the Santa Monica recreation and parks community, serving for 12 years on the Recreation and Parks Commission. Carrey was one of the leaders of the successful effort in the early 1990s to turn non-aviation land at the airport into the current Airport Park after the City Council reversed plans for development there. The other members of the initial board of directors of the foundation are Michael Brodsky, John Fairweather, Frank Gruber, Cathy Larson, and Mike Salazar. These five, along with Carrey, served as the executive committee of Committee for Local Control of Santa Monica Airport Land, the organization that campaigned against Measure D and in favor of Measure LC.

“Now that the election is over, we can return to construc-
tive efforts to build a park for the benefit of all,” said Carrey. “We have formed the foundation to be the catalyst for a citywide effort to turn the airport lands, as they become available, into a most wonderful park, one that will combine recreation, arts and culture with the restoration of natural habitat.” Carrey went on to say that, “The fact is that on July 1 of this year, when the City’s 1984 agree-
ment with the FAA expires, the City will gain control of nearly 12 acres that currently serve aviation purposes. This land was classified in the 1984 Agreement as ‘non-av-
iation land,’ but has had to be used for aviation purposes because of other requirements in the 1984 agreement. Those requirements expire July 1, and we at the foundation will be advocating for the City to take immediate steps to make that land available for public use.”

Next steps for the foundation will be to form an advisory board and create committees to serve in such areas as community outreach, event planning, media relations and fund raising.