Diary of a Mad County

Photo by James BunoanMONDAY, Feb 17: War looms, yet what concerns most Americans is Michael Jackson's British TV interview that paints him as—get this—a loon. People discuss whether Jackson's face is disintegrating or what he meant when he said he and Macauly Culkin would "just jam" in bed. Some said America would never be the same after Sept. 11, but here we are talking about Michael, our Elephant Man, our crotch-grabbing, face-grafting, hush-money-paying Michael, and I know certain things will never change about America. And that is why we are all royally "jam"-med. . . . Where tradition is concerned, Orange Countians need look no farther than the Richard M. Nixon Library and Birthplace, which keeps finding ways to build on to its legacy the way that deranged Winchester lady did with her Mystery House. Today, the Library broke ground on a $12 million, 47,000-square-foot addition that will allow it to better accommodate weddings and business meetings. Is this a presidential library or a Ramada? The man was the president of the United States. Okay, he sucked, but he was elected fair and square. What next? A ribbon cutting for the Robert Taft All-You-Can-Eat Sundae Bar? Mmmmm, Taft-Hartleyicious.

TUESDAY, Feb. 18: You may recall Supervisor Chris Norby last week decrying huge tax incentives cities give to big-box retailers. "Costco, that's the worst," Norby told us, referring to cities all over the county—from Fullerton ($3.1 million) to Fountain Valley ($9.7 million)—giving more than $30 million to the gargantuan-condiment gargantuan. It may happen again tonight as the La Habra City Council discusses whether to give Costco $1 million to build there. Nearly 200 residents against the deal pack the council chambers; 450 signed a petition asking the council to reconsider, given that La Habra, like other cities, is staring down severe budget cuts that will affect city services and schools. "This is something nearly every city that gets a Costco does," says Mayor Juan Garcia. "And this will keep them from going to another city, like La Mirada" (and who among us hasn't heard the siren call that is La Mirada?). That every city does this is news to Laguna Niguel City Manager Tim Caseysince his town sports two Costcos—not to mention a Wal-Mart and a soon-to-open Kohl's—and has never given a dollar to any of them. Reluctant to compare his city's circumstances with any other, Casey does say his city simply never brings up the subject of tax incentives, and if companies ask, they're told it's not the way things go down in Laguna Niguel—"Potsie Town" to locals. What they do offer, he says, is a willingness to work closely and quickly with retailers. "Time is money to these companies. If you can show them you can get them up and running quicker than another city, that can be much more valuable to them than any other incentive." As far as acting out of fear of being snaked by another city, Casey says, that's dangerous. "It certainly makes you fair game for the development community. If a developer believes they have you in a position to offer something, they're probably going to ask you to offer things."

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 19: A few ticks before 5 a.m., the longest council meeting in city history ends with a unanimous vote in favor of giving Costco the money, assuring La Habra of the cache that comes with being a destination point for beef jerky and John Grisham by the pallet. Suck on that, La Mirada! You want industrial-strength Almond Rocca, you're coming to the LHC! Mayor Garcia says Costco will bring in annual sales-tax revenue of $500,000 per year. But will that be additional tax revenue or simply money redirected from other local businesses such as Paul's "King of Big Screen" TV? How should I know? I just found out that Laguna Niguel is not named in honor of Oakland A's shortstop Niguel Tejada. . . . President? Oh, yes, certainly, Dick Gephardt. Absolutely. Hey, while we're at it, how's about Adlai Stevenson? Does anyone know if Charles Manson is a registered Democrat? There's a congressman from Tennessee. His name is Harold Ford Jr. Get to know him . . . The median home price in Orange County is now $369,000, which means that if everything breaks right, La Habra will be able to afford a really nice house in a couple of years.

THURSDAY, Feb. 20: The Washington Times runs this in their "Culture Briefs": "Costco, the big warehouse chain, took a minor PR hit last year when the City Council of Cypress, California, tried to kick a church off its land in order to give it to the company. . . . Members of the City Council in Cypress and the council's defenders noted that Costco would generate more tax revenue for the city than a church would." Why do I see the grubby, God-hating fingers of La Mirada all over this? . . . My feelings regarding battery-powered nose-hair trimmers with recessed vanity lighting? Mixed. . . . Fox runs Michael Jackson's side of Monday's interview. Host and empty vessel Maury Povich—matched in absence of human feeling only by his rag-bone of a wife, Connie Chung—feigns outrage at the manner in which Jackson was manipulated and exploited by a British TV journalist. Two days before, on his dung heap of a show, Povich presented "My 10-Year-Old Tried to Poison Me!" As mentioned, the pro-Jackson show is broadcast on Fox, whose owner, Rupert Murdoch, owns the tabloids that coined the phrase "Wacko Jacko." Of course, what Fox is decrying tonight is the excesses of tabloid TV or what it all but invented back in the '80s when it began airing a program called A Current Affair hosted by, hello, Maury Povich.

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