Last week I wrote about how CD1 staffer Bill Cody used his position with the City to revenge himself against Highland Park community art activists Brenda Perez and Yaya Castillo by trying to get City funding pulled from a mural because a compatriot of theirs, muralist John Zender, was involved in the project. That happened in June 2018, and the backstory is well-summarized in that post, so I won’t repeat it here. The very short version is that Bill Cody was pushing a mural by Frank Romero of Los Four at least in part to silence community agitation at the destruction of a mural by Zender at the behest of the reprehensible Highland Park Business Improvement District.
Well, it turns out that in April 2018, when Cody was beginning the process of organizing Frank Romero’s new pro-Olympics mural, there was also a project by Zender proposed for the same City-owned wall. It turns out that the Cultural Affairs Commission, which must approve murals on City property,1 has a process in place to resolve just this kind of situation. Which they would have to have, of course, because the City property belongs to everyone. If more than one artist wants to put a mural somewhere there has to be a fair method of choosing.
Accordingly, Yami Duarte of the Department of Cultural Affairs told Bill Cody that all murals on City property must be approved by the CAC and that the DCA “Director is apprised that there may be another mural proposal for the same location by artist Mr. John Zender Estrada, and recommends that both projects be presented side by side to the Commission.” By the way, I don’t think that it has been previously reported that Zender had plans for a mural where Romero’s mural was going to be painted. The story is told in this brief email conversation, of which there is a complete transcription after the break.2
But, as we’ve seen, Cody really had it in for Zender, so he wasn’t having that. And he wasn’t owning his not having it either, as he attributed his unwillingness to follow the rules and let the CAC decide which mural ought to be placed on the wall to Gil Cedillo.3 Thus spake Bill Cody: “I do not think the Councilmember will want to do it that way and I think we should have a conversation about this.” Of course, the vengeful Cody doesn’t want to do anything any way that might result in some democratically empowered body such as the CAC choosing something other than what he had planned, which is keeping Zender’s work off walls in Highland Park. And of course he invokes Cedillo, the source of his power.
Cody evidently had his way with the mural, although the details are still unknown. For whatever reason Romero’s mural didn’t come up before the CAC until its January 9, 2019 meeting. Take a look at the agenda for yourself and notice that there’s nothing at all about Zender on there. And that’s the story. Sure, it’s more low key than all that lurid nonsense about Cody punishing constituents for attacking his office on Facebook, but it’s just as corrosive of democratic principles. So turn the page for a transcription and also to take a look at how the Department of Cultural Affairs thinks it’s somehow appropriate to redact the name and email address of City staffer Rebeca Guerrero.4 I asked them why, but they declined to respond.
From: Yami Duarte <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Bill Cody <email@example.com>
Cc: Felicia Filer <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Date: Fri, Apr 27, 2018 at 5:25 PM
Subject: Mural application for City Property- N Figueroa and Avenue 57
Thank you for speaking with me today to further discuss the Council Office’s interest in proposing a new mural on City Property.
Please see attached for the Public Art Division Approval Process for artworks on City Property. As stated in the application, all public art projects located on or over City property must be submitted to the Cultural Affairs Commission (CAC) for approval prior to installation.
My Director is apprised that there may be another mural proposal for the same location by artist Mr. John Zender Estrada, and recommends that both projects be presented side by side to the Commission.
Regarding funding, your office has a balance of $5,000 in the Mural Fund and there may be additional funding available in the Civic Fund. Please contact email@example.com for the Civic Fund balance (cc’d).
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Yami M. Duarte | Project Manager
City of Los Angeles | Murals Program
firstname.lastname@example.org | 213202-5541
Department of Cultural Affairs | Public Art Division
201 North Figueroa Street | Suite 1400
Los Angeles, California 90012
From: Bill Cody <email@example.com>
To: Yami Duarte <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Felicia Filer <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, Apr 27, 2018 at 5:50 PM
Subject: Re: Mural application for City Property- N Figueroa and Avenue 57
Definitely want to have that conference call. I do not think the Councilmember will want to do it that way and I think we should have a conversation about this.
Image of Bill Cody is ©2019 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and is clipped, flipped, and whipped up into a frothy digital confection out of a random screenshot from this most random of videos.
- Probably on private property too, but that’s not what we’re on about here!
- Not to mention an image as well, because there’s a particularly unsupportable redaction that’s also worth looking at.
- I don’t know what Cedillo thought of the matter but it’s not relevant. What’s relevant is Cody’s sloughing off responsibility and also flexing bureaucratic muscle.
- Whose email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that the spelling is correct.