There are 152 words in Tom Fitch’s paean, 271 words in the Gettysburg Address, and about 1300 words in the Declaration of Independence.
The staff report discussed in the previous editorial spent 7,629 words recommending that the City Council uphold an appeal of a Landmarks Commission nomination of a Craftsman bungalow for designation as a landmark.
As noted in the previous editorial, the staff’s case was ill-conceived, badly framed, and generally wrong-headed, and its flaws were only magnified by its length.
Given the willingness of the Council to do the staff’s bidding, a sentence or two probably would have done the job, and spared all of us the agony of having to read so much truly mediocre prose.
At the same meeting, the staff presented a new interim hedge ordinance to the City Council. It contained 6,678 words — an interim ordinance, for God’s sake, about hedges.
If Tom Fitch could declare Santa Monica open in 152 words and America could declare its independence in 1300 words, then surely the City staff could ask the City Council to uphold an appeal and approve an interim hedge ordinance in, say, about 1,000 words each.
But, in bureaucracies, documents are not measured by their brilliance, their passion or their eloquence, but by their sheer numbing length – because the point is to obscure the point, and keep the public in a perpetual state of bemused abeyance.
Council meetings have long been endurance contests, marathon sessions that run deep into the night, and swollen staff reports are part of the problem.Unfortunately, the more the words pile up and multiply in City Hall, the less they seem to mean, and the more they seem to be a kind of cover for all sorts of questionable actions.