This week’s great OC videos: Spanky vs. the Sopranos, and Laguna Woods Stoners! (UPDATED with great NORBY vid)




Assemblyman Don “Spanky” Wagner, R-Irvine, at left.
The unfortunate nickname, which I did not invent,
refers to his unflagging advocacy for corporal punishment at home and in school.
Here we see Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D-Gardenia)
being restrained by fellow Democrats from going all Sumo Wrestler on Spanky.

I woke up yesterday morning to everybody, but EVERYBODY, sending me the following video, knowing that I’ve long been a big Wagner critic.  Problem was, as I watched it, I kept thinking “Does maybe Don have a few good points this time?”  And then the over-reaction from Assembly Democrats to his (cliched) “Sopranos” reference struck me as over-the-top political correctness.  That’s just the kind of devil’s advocate I am.  Take a look:

But, after having done some research into this somewhat complicated issue, I’d say Spanky is engaging in very disingenuous showboating.  The pair of bills which he’s railing against – 26 and 27 – would abolish these wasteful, obsolete RDA’s he purports to want to abolish (Redevelopment Agencies, which have leeched untold money out of local education and public safety, often for the sake of private developers) and THEN force them to pay back the $1.4 billion to said education and public safety if they want to continue existing.

I asked a smart Sacramento friend, “Well, that really does get rid of them, doesn’t it, if they have no revenue left?”  And he explained, “No, they could still try to get it locally, from locally approved bonds perhaps.”  So, yeah, these two bills DO get rid of RDA’s.  Unless the locals REALLY want to subsidize the development.  Sounds outstandingly fair.

Juice Brother Larry Gilbert, than whom there is no more fervent opponent to RDA’s, agrees, telling me that “not every bill is perfect” and sometimes on an important issue “we have to take half a loaf.”

And the other good point:  If Don Wagner is such a principled, pure opponent of RDA’s that this bill isn’t good enough for him, then WHERE IS THE BIG DON WAGNER RDA-ABOLITION BILL? No?  Nothing?  Maybe, as he is such a staunch advocate for “Faith in Public Life,” he figures if he just closes his eyes and believes hard enough, the perfect bill will COME ALONG.

I suspect Spanky is PROTECTING RDA’s, while deviously spouting off fiery anti-RDA rhetoric.  Leave aside that he still hasn’t voted aye on any measures to limit them at all – just try to figure out his “Sopranos” reference.  “Nice little RDA you’ve got there, shame if anything happened to it.” It took me a little while to properly parse that puzzling (albeit trite) reference.  But Don is referring, with huge resentment, to Bill 27’s forcing RDA’s to pay back their public money if they want to continue.  So that’s the real underlying jist of his outburst:  RDA’s shouldn’t be forced to give back any money.

And WHY would this Irvine Assemblyman go to the mat like this for Redevelopment Agencies?  Well, we can look for a clue at Irvine’s biggest public boondoggle, Larry Agran’s Great Park, which, as we know from Moxley, HAD been counting on RDA funds to continue its slug-paced progress.  Wouldn’t that be funny, if this teabagging, anti-government Assemblyman was carrying the water for the borderline-corrupt socialist Democrat Agran’s “Great Pork?”  [UPDATE:  A friend strongly opines that I shouldn’t have written the above paragraph without “evidence” linking Agran and Spanky;  that that pairing is inconceivable;  and that it’s absurdly anachronistic to think of an Assemblyman’s interests as local and provincial when Wagner’s support and ambitions are statewide and national.  Points taken.]

And those “Sopranos,” “Italian-American” cracks.  It turns out that the guy who had just spoken in favor of these two bills is Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) who, Spanky HAD to have known, is an Italian-American from New Jersey.  So no wonder offense was taken.  Offense was intended.

Where did the mighty Warren Furutani’s FURY toward Spanky come from?  Just from this incident?  I sort of doubt it.  Spanky has been a real pain up there for a year now, and I’m sure he’s proud of it.  He just finished successfully leading the “Taxpayers’ Caucus” whose purpose was to prevent us California taxpayers from being able to decide if we want to temporarily extend some of our taxes to avoid draconian cuts in education etc.  And he’s hooked up with a tiny but noisy contingent of Republican Minutemen up there, which, to the dismay of other Republicans, finds the cause of all our ills in the Mexican immigrant.  I have to hand it to Spanky – he has distinguished himself this year – along with Dana Point’s Diane Harkey and San Bernardino’s Tim Donnelly – as the most obnoxious, strident and divisive of Sacramento Teabaggers.  (A cut above the mediocre Mansoor and most of the rest of our bland delegation.)

Contrast Spanky with true conservative Chris Norby:

Oh.  PS.  These two bills passed easy.  Sayonara RDA’s, too bad Spanky.

And Laguna Woods stoners…..

On a somewhat lighter note, it was great to see my old buddy (and I say old advisedly) the distinguished progressive activist and Laguna Woods firebrand Jonathan Adler, on the Colbert Report this week, even if it was only a few seconds, explaining how senior citizens who use medical marijuana get “the munchies.”


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.