Diary of a Mad County

MONDAY, July 21 For a paper that's made plenty of hay distancing itself from Los Angeles, the Register is doing a great job of running interference for Lakers star Kobe Bryant, charged the previous Friday with sexual assault. Though most local media have bent over backwards to tell Bryant's side of it, intimating that Bryant's accuser is a starstruck loon (she tried out for American Idol? Guilty!), the Reg has gone the extra bend with a stream of pro-Bryant stories, including yesterday's "news" that Bryant's accuser once attempted suicide. Which just goes to prove . . . what? Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people 15 to 19 years old and three times as many females attempt it as males, according to the American Psychiatric Association. So far, none of the others have accused Bryant of anything. That story came after law-and-order columnist Gordon Dillowgroused that he couldn't make the 19-year-old's name public. Then there was the piece quoting a Lakers season-ticket holder saying sexual assault "doesn't sound like his family or anything I know about the guy." What he knows about Bryant apparently being that he never saw him sexually assault anyone on the court—if you don't count the time he dunked over Yao Ming.


Nice fair!

TUESDAY, July 22 In a spectacular moment of defiance, OC Fairemployee Robyn Hubbard strips off her uniform and—for an archetypal moment—stands near a pink gingerbread house in nothing more than a bra and a thong, making it the most ribald act of civil disobedience since Sacco and Vanzetti went topless in the Haymarket. How did Robyn get here? Ten years ago, her husband (sorry, boys), Chris Sylvis, took a temporary job working on the fair's Clean Sweep crew, supervising teenagers who scour the fair grounds, picking up trash and cleaning restrooms. It was a nice gig, so nice that Chris thought his wife, a real estate agent, might enjoy the chance to hang around the fair for a few weeks each summer. Robyn and Chris say problems began this year when a new crew took over and attempted to micromanage Clean Sweep. "They had zero people skills," Robyn says. Chris and Robyn claim that adults cursed at teen workers and ordered them not to sit down when they were tired because it made it appear they were slacking. "I'm not going to tell a kid in 90-degree weather that he can't sit down to catch his breath," Chris said. "These are good kids, the best crew I've had in 10 years, and there was no reason to treat them like that." Indeed, Sylvis wondered why there was a change in the Clean Sweep department, since the department was honored as one of the fair's top performers last year. Anyway, things went on like this and on Monday, Chris quit. Management went into damage control, calling supervisors into a meeting Tuesday. But instead of trying to smooth things, managers told Robyn and colleagues, Dean Wormer-like, they needed to "stamp out the kids' individuality." Robyn says things "got kinda crazy," with supervisors and managers yelling at each other, culminating in Robyn and other supervisors quitting on the spot. Robyn bolted from the meeting and out into the fair, followed by a manager who told her she would not be paid until she turned in her fair-issued shorts and shirt. "I said, 'Fine!' I was so pissed, I took off my shorts and shirt right there and I was standing there in my bra and thong. All my kids were yelling 'Go! Go! Go!'" Robyn quickly put on a dress she had with her and left the fair. Besides five supervisors, 10 Clean Sweep kids quit that day, according to fair spokesman Pam Highwart. "There comes a time when you have to choose the hill you're going to die on and this was mine," Robyn said. "I'm not a big fan of kids, but those were good kids. They were treated so badly. I told them, 'Don't let trash and toilets be your future and don't be disrespected.'" Which was pretty much what Sacco and Vanzetti said.

WEDNESDAY, July 23 George W. Bush says Saddam Hussein's regime is gone and is never coming back, which must be of enormous comfort to the families of two more American servicemen killed in Iraq today.

FRIDAY, July 25 Today is the deadline for ballots in the matter of traffic barriers that separate the single-family homeowners of Santa Ana's French Park neighborhood from the apartment-dwellers in French Court. The barriers were installed nearly two years ago between the two communities, but here's where the whole thing gets antebellum: While each home in French Park was given one vote, apartment buildings—with multiple residents—were afforded only one vote as well, and that vote was given to the building's owner, who, we're just guessing, probably doesn't live in the building. There are approximately 289 households in the French Park area compared to 850 households in the French Court neighborhood, yet 236 ballots were mailed to residents of French Park while French Court received only 111 ballots. That fact caused the ACLU to successfully file for a restraining order against a ballot count. ACLU spokesman Tenoch Flores said his organization doesn't care about the barrier one way or another, but sees this as "a clear case of voting rights." George Alvarez of Santa Ana's Public Works department said the city didn't send out ballots at all, that the city was merely conducting "a poll, a survey" and that the ACLU is off base since "this wasn't an election. We just wanted to find out how people in the area felt about the barriers." But if Public Works was just looking for poll numbers, why, I asked, would they limit who could respond? Wouldn't they want to poll everyone in the affected area? After a significant pause, Alvarez said, "We just wanted to do a survey, we just wanted to see how this was working out for the residents there." Which didn't so much not answer my question as ignore it completely, but he seemed okay with it. The ACLU restraining order is in effect for 10 days.

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