Irresponsible Progress and The Empty Silver Lake Reservoir


1. Why is it empty?

New pipes had to be laid down to transport drinking water from-- 

2. --No, but why is it empty?

Post-9/11 rules require all drinking water reservoirs be underground plus it had already been determined--

3. --Seriously, why is it still empty now? It's gross.

It's getting refilled in May primarily from a sustainable groundwater source that is not suitable for drinking.

4. K. Can't they make it cool like the Echo Park lake?

Two organizations have formed to address the future of the Silver Lake Reservoir. "Refill Silver Lake Now" wants to basically refill it -- mission accomplished -- so they seem to be unofficially evolving in to the cluster advocating for it to stay exactly as is. They argue making it a destination park will ruin the neighborhood's tranquil vibe and make traffic and parking way worse. "Silver Lake Forward" advocates to "restore and beautify the 31 acres of land within the fences through a plan that values access, beauty and conservation, with minimal impact to the local neighborhood" and get a feasibility study done to see what's possible and realistic.


5. Who makes the decision?

City Council Reps David Ryu and Mitch O'Farrell (who were present and organized this town hall forum with the community and LADWP, btw) are hiring a consultant to moderate and facilitate future community input, consensus building, and ultimately how to determine the path forward (i.e. entire neighborhood votes, random community survey, etc.) Bonus! The room was split but a community survey shows roughly 75% align with the agenda by Silver Lake Forward.

6. K. What do you think, Dan?

Progress sucks sometimes. We hear how great and exciting it is but people inevitably get left behind. And that's one reason why people voted for Trump. But voting for Trump is what I call "Irresponsible Progress." Electing someone who has never made public his tax returns, medical records, profits from the fears that divide us, and is clearly a narcissist who is dangerously hypocritical either by choice or self-delusion but promises change is irresponsible progress. Where was I? Silver Lake. Both groups want a lot of the same things: refill the reservoir, protect and support the wildlife, and ensure any future plan aim for minimal impact on the neighborhood. That's "Responsible Progress."

Long-time residents probably hate that their neighborhood is more densely populated now versus what it was even five years ago. Traffic is definitely worse. And it'll get even worse. That's change. It's inevitable. And so we have to look to the future, beyond ourselves and the next five years, and think about the greater good. A park that honors the current tranquil environment while looking less prison-like (take those fences down) and has a more nature-centric aesthetic would be so great. But, at the same time, maybe we don't need another Square One here, either.

The Answer to All Our Problems

You know that scene? The one where the crowd of strangers work together to help the hero? Like the last scene in Rudy. Notre Dame has the game locked up. Rudy never had a chance to play. And then the whole football stadium starts chanting “RU-DY! RU-DY!”? It makes me cry every time.

It’s a well-known Hollywood formula. It goes like this: Total Strangers + Common Cause = Dan's Crying. And I know what you’re wondering right now and the answer is: yes, even the final scene in the NYC subway in Crocodile Dundee. New Yorkers + Game of Telephone Saying, "I Love You!'" = Dan's Crying.

Senator Chris Murphy's account of the Newtown Elementary school teacher and her autistic student woke me up. I’ve heard countless news reports covering the atrocity that happened in that school. But hearing Senator Murphy recount the story of that one teacher that chose to stay behind to be with her student, costing them both their lives, that’s when it really hit me. 

Maybe something is shifting in me because I'm now in love and want a future with someone. Maybe it was what happened in Dallas. Or maybe Orlando felt close to home because that same night I was walking through the Gay Pride party in West Hollywood. (My Uber driver decided to take a "shortcut" down Robertson through the gridlocked center of Gay Pride. We ditched the ride and walked home from there.) I still don't know what that Uber driver’s game was. But I do know that we need change. And we all need to be apart of it.

"Tikkun olam." It's a Jewish concept defined by acts of kindness performed to repair the world. It is often used when discussing issues of social policy, insuring a safeguard to the disadvantaged.

I am a Jew. But I don't belong to a temple and I don't celebrate Shabbat (but I'd like to once a month or so). And, just between us, I don't really believe in God. AND! I'm in a committed relationship with a shiska. Iknowright?? And I am still a Jew. Passively, I'm a Jew because my parents are and it's my cultural heritage. Actively, I'm a Jew because I celebrate the high holidays (we hosted a delicious and topical Passover Seder that connected the story of Exodus to the Syrian refugee crisis) and because I practice tikkun olam. So does my partner.

She's a yoga therapist. She works with women suffering from traumatic sexual and childhood trauma. When talking about her work, she told me "Sometimes it's about getting a girl to feel comfortable and safe enough to just close her eyes." She also said that she's lucky to have a career where the more successful she is, the more people she gets to help. 

We can overcome the grip of the NRA. We can overcome feckless members of congress. Because it's not up to them.

Voting is not the end of your civic involvement. It's the beginning. Your world is shaped by people that already know that. So make your voice heard. Get involved. Speak up like the internet doesn't exist. Show up and be the change you want to see. Bernie won't save you. He proudly shouts that in almost every speech: "YOU are the political revolution. Not me." I was a delegate for Bernie Sanders and I know he's right. Because I'm the answer I've been looking for. And so are you. 

I’ve joined the increasingly-powerful advocacy group Every Town for Gun Saftey, which is taking on the NRA and fighting for gun sense. And I’m organizing to end dog breed discrimination by landlords in Los Angeles. The facts are on my side. So is Obama. It’s not world hunger or homelessness, but it’s a disadvantaged group and it’s important to me. You gotta start somewhere.

Us + Getting Involved = Dan's Crying.


Note: While finishing this piece, the news broke about Dallas. Below is a reflection on an incident from less than a month ago. There is too much gun violence and tragedy to thoughtfully and fully take it all in.

I want to start a shiva group in LA. It's depressingly realistic that there will be many more victims of shootings just in LA, let alone across the country. It's imperative that we come together. We need to recognize the suffering and grieving of people in our community, in our zip codes and across the country. Black Lives Matter. Lives Matter. People are suffering and disadvantaged, and it's the responsibility of the privileged to speak up.

It's a Sunday in June. In a Washington, D.C. neighborhood, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld is leaving his house to walk to Temple Ohev Shalom for the holiday Shavuot. On his way out, his neighbor asks if he's heard about what happened last night in Orlando. Jews don't use electronics during holidays so he hadn't.

From the NPR interview: 

MARTIN: The news hit him hard. So Rabbi Herzfeld decided to ask members of his congregation to go with him to a local gay bar as a gesture of support. He compared it to sitting Shiva, a Jewish tradition.

HERZFELD: During Shiva, the mourners sit and other people come and embrace the mourners. And the point is, not that the people who are visiting have answers or a way of removing the pain that people are feeling, but just a way of connecting and saying, we are with you together.

MARTIN: A way of saying we share your pain and our lives are not going on as normal, he told us. But for the rabbi, going to a gay bar - or any bar for that matter - was not a normal experience.

HERZFELD: It was a little intimidating for me. I really don't remember the last time I was in a bar. I think it was right after I graduated high school.

MARTIN: But as is so often the case, mom came through.

HERZFELD: I was lucky that my mother was with me. My mother, being a woman of tremendous soul - she saw a person, and she just went up to this man and told him why we were there. And he broke down in tears, and he said my cousin was murdered in Orlando. And the next thing I knew, my mother was embracing this total stranger.

MARTIN: The man invited the rabbi and congregation inside where they were warmly welcomed.

HERZFELD: The bartender was nice enough to shut the music for a while, and then we all put our arms around each other and prayed for the families of the deceased.

MARTIN: The group then moved to Dupont Circle, a famous D.C. landmark, where other mourners had gathered.

HERZFELD: And we had embraced people who are strangers to us, and we joined together in singing a song "How Goodly And How Beautiful." When a tribe worked all together in peace, when the whole world will come together as an act of unity, that's a beautiful thing. And that's the small thing that we were trying to do.

We will grieve together and we will fight together.


Listen to the NPR story with the rabbi

Edward Tang Will Bring Balance to The Force

The Republican-Hate-Machine folding-table is bare except for two single sheets torn from a notebook with “Sign-up Sheet” sloppily written at the top. The sheet with the pink pen has two names. The other one has over twice as many — almost eight names.

This “Join the SMC College Republicans” table sticks out like a gross zit on this sunny day at the Santa Monica College campus.

Manning the table is Edward Tang. He has grey sunglasses, a suggestion of a beard, and his soft-spoken demeanor contrasts his large frame. He is clearly not Donald Trump. I know this because Edward is of Chinese descent. (Journalist Note: I forgot to ask but his last name, accent, and references to China justify my assumption.). And Edward is also not a pathological lying racist-but-doesn’t-really-mean-it-cause-its-just-a-suggestion. At least, he didn’t immediately come across that way.

“I’m a libertarian conservative,” he reminded me. Edward decided to lead the SMC College Republicans group after splitting off from the Libertarian group. Apparently it was an amiable split because his Libertarian friend, Christian Cueva, was standing next to me at the table.

Edward doesn’t subscribe to much of the mainstream Republicanism we hear in the news. To Trumpism. Cruzists. Rubio-otics. Edward does believe religion has its place in the Republican party. “What’s our first amendment, really?” Edward asked rhetorically (Thank, God). “You can have any religion you want. It shouldn’t be just a Christian-based government. My parents are Christian and it’s the tradition of America.” But, he added, it shouldn’t be front and center where it feels as though its a prerequisite for joining. Rather…And then I kind of tuned him out here. I was recording the conversation so no bigs.

My mind wandered back to that last question. Why did he join a party that less accurately represents his values? And then I remember all those Bernie Sanders supporters. In particular, the ones that switched from Green Party to Democrat in order to vote for him. In even more particular, one such instance of a Green-turned-Democrat comes to mind.

This guy, a Sanders supporter, applies online to be a delegate candidate for Bernie. His application is denied. Why? Because this person, unbeknownst to him, is not actually a member of the Democratic party. He’s registered Green. And he forgot. Which makes sense as a Sanders supporter for two reasons. One, Sanders is way more Green than Democrat. Look it up. And, two, Sanders supporters are typically younger and have felt previously unrepresented in politics. So this guy switches his party affiliation to Dem, reapplies to be a delegate, ultimately gets it!, and oh yeah by the way its me. Hi. Dan Gordon here. Hashtag DNC Dan. #DNCDAN

Edward Tang is the Republican version of a Sanders supporter. Like many Sanders supporters, he’s fueled, inspired, and informed well enough to have a thoughtful conversation on the subject of his accumulative knowledge.

Listening to Edward was refreshing. He didn’t have all the answers. And he didn’t pretend to. “We need to stop talking in these extreme ways of it has to be right [or] it has to be wrong,” Edward said. “Then we can really agree with a lot of people.” He knows what’s important to him and he’s still figuring out the rest of it. It was a stark contrast to so many of the political discussions I’ve had recently.

More often than not, we’re all just listening to someone else, waiting for our turn to talk, for those hooks to pull the conversation back to our knowledge. Because saying “I don’t know” is no way to win. And we all want to win. We have to win. Because the alternative, the other side, is ridiculous and will likely cause the world to end.

“So,” Edward asked, “do you want to sign up for the SMC College Republicans group?” I’m excited for our first meeting. I asked him what book he’ll assign as required reading. He squinted his eyes and looked up, searching for the answer. He clearly hadn’t thought about this. Then he said, “I don’t know.”

What the F is a delegate, really?

As an elected pledged delegate for Bernie Sanders, I’m on a mission to find out what the fuck that means. Here's what we know so far: Becoming a delegate is like a mini election. Listen to my (winning) speech and Carlos' VERY different experience on the episode "A Tale of Two Caucuses."

Check back for regular reports on my findings,