In what can only be describe as a victory for grass-roots activism, Autry National Center President John L. Gray has announced his resignation/ retirement from the western-theme museum.
Activists in both the Mt. Washington and Griffith Park communities were surprised by this announcement, but in hindsight, even an loyal Autry stalwart such as Gray could read the "political tea leaves" and determine that the Autry National Center's "expansionist vision" would never become reality in the current political environment.
Speculation by one member of the "Friends of the Southwest Museum" coalition, centers on the recent proposal by CD 14 Councilman Jose Huizar to make million in loans and grants available to the Autry, for rehabilitation of the Southwest Museum, thus insuring a viable museum on the slopes of Mt. Washington.
But in an recent meeting of the Autry Board of Trustees and Jackie Autry, they turned down the proposal by Councilman Huizar. This in retrospect could have help make easier the decision by Gray to tender his resignation/ retirement to the Autry.
Gray for his part, could not resist taking an swipe at Southwest Museum preservationists,
"My largest challenge was dealing with people who didn't understand the role of the museum and didn't appreciate it", Gray said. "As a result, the process of saving the Southwest and working on working on expansion plans were never discussed in terms of cultural institutions. It simply became politics".
The politics that were part of the Autry Expansion/ Southwest abandonment desires, included the hiring of such unsavory political entities such as Latham & Watkins and the convicted criminal Steve Sugerman, who on the behalf of their Autry client, attempted to usurp transparent political processes.
In addition, one cannot overlook the cost of political favors, by the likes of Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilman Jose Huizar to the cast of "community vendidos y vendidas" that constituted the fraudulent "Southwest Society". Whether it was the giveaway of the Hazard Park Armory to Jenny Krusoe, committee appointments for Carol Jacques and favors directed to Eliot Sekuler. The true cost of the Mayor and Councilman Huizar's attempt to force the Autry agenda down the throats of open space and Southwest Museum preservationists, may have long-term political ramifications starting in 2011.
In retrospect, while the battle to preserve Griffith Park and the Southwest Museum is not over by any means, the efforts and unity of preservationists in this saga, deserve the proper kudos of praise.
** The traveling roadshow featuring the City Council Budget Committee, made its schedule stop last evening, in the El Sereno neighborhood of CD 14. For host Councilman Jose Huizar, this was an evening that he may want to expunge from his political memory.
First, Budget Committee attendees were given copies of the latest issue of the Voice Newspaper, which called into question Councilman's Huizar use of discretionary funds. Then speaker after speaker spoke negativly about issues within the district, whether it was fire services cutbacks, contracting out recreation services, or the general disdain for the current political leadership at City Hall, This was not the positive image that "Team Huizar" wanted to present for the evening.
Then there was the political drama, with 2011 repercussions, taking place right in front of the Councilman. Seated with Public Works Commissioner Cynthia Ruiz, was an prominant local businessperson, who is entertaining thoughts about future political aspirations. Judging by the tone of activists within the meeting room, any possible candidate that may want to challenge the incumbent Huizar in 2011, would be met with an open mind.
But the most poignant moment of the evening was the emotional testimony of a greiving son, who painfully retold the story of waiting with his father nine plus minutes for a paramedic, only to see his father pass away.
If one needed to be reminded of the serious ramifications of the budget crisis at City Hall, this moment would of jarred you back to reality, but then if you were listening to Councilman Huizar, the cutbacks/ brownouts of fire services is "only an reallocation of resourses".