@THE GUSS REPORT-At a salary north of $200,000 plus a pension, perks, and power, is it too much to ask America's highest-paid city council to be fed, appropriately dressed, and paying attention by the start of its 10 a.m. weekday Zoom meetings?
For LA City Councilmember Kevin Leon, better known as Kevin de León, this seems to be a struggle.
Newly elected to the city's legislative body, the 54-year-old veteran politician was a no-show on Tuesday, missing more than a dozen votes. The next day, he showed up disengaged, unkempt and slurping bowls of breakfast cereal as constituents shared their concerns and criticisms.
De León dismissively flipped through his morning reads and repeatedly raised his bowl, scraped its sides, and shoveled the contents into his mouth while on camera, inviting negative attention, though he and his staff went silent when asked which cereal he had been wolfing down on company time, as it were.
De León's disdain for his job might be acceptable to the roughly 250,000 people he represents as the replacement for Jose Huizar, who faces a federal corruption trial this summer. But his votes also impact all 4 million Angelenos, and the decisions he makes as chair and panelist of committees can affect up to 6 million others outside the city but within LA County.
As someone who aspires to be Mayor, de León might want to look at the competition, like Mark Ridley-Thomas, who always looks ready for the day, as do most of their colleagues. Would Herb Wesson or Rick Caruso (or Huizar) ever raise a bowl to slurp down Apple Jacks or Grape Nuts, let alone while on camera before their colleagues and constituents? Even the Councilmembers who sneak a sip or bite during the meetings do so inconspicuously.
We want to believe that this may have been a one-off for de León after an exhausting night of whatever pandemic fun he may have had, except it isn't.
A few weeks ago, the lawmaker made himself the butt of evening newscast jokes from coast-to-coast when he was unprepared at 10 a.m. as he was called upon by City Council President Nury Martinez to lead the Pledge of Allegiance, fumbling both attempts.
His spokesperson’s claim that the flubs were due to “technical difficulties” lacks credibility, given that the entire incident was easy to hear, as was de León’s starting over and his use of non-words.
To be fair to de León, perhaps this is just a brilliant acting job to bring levity and fun during simultaneous deadly crises and despair. If so, his Academy Award awaits though instead of a golden Oscar statuette, a pair of cheap plastic sippie bowls might be more appropriate and practical.
Back in his day, not everyone understood the comedic brilliance of performance artist Andy Kaufman. But the very nature of his work was to get the audience to laugh at his absurd antics. In de León's case, the absurdity is his lack of self-awareness.
One would think the heart of a Councilmember's job is solving problems and making our lives better such that they get elected to higher office. If nothing else, de León should at least appear like he wants to be there instead of looking like he has better things to do, like stretching, cracking his knuckles, and going back to bed until the afternoon committee meetings.
Food for thought.
(Daniel Guss, MBA, was runner-up for the 2020 Los Angeles Press Club journalism award for Best Online Political Commentary and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, iHeartMedia, 790-KABC, Cumulus Media, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal, Pasadena Star-News, Los Angeles Downtown News, and the Los Angeles Times in its Sports, Opinion and Entertainment sections and Sunday Magazine, among other publishers. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.