The LookOut sm confidential

uncensored account
C. Castle

The Charge of the ATM Brigade

Minutes after a federal judge in San Francisco ordered the city to stop enforcing its ban on ATM surcharges, excited city fathers geared up for what they think will be a popular war.

In a press release that flew off our fax machine, emboldened city officials anticipated "a long fight," and said they were "in this for the long haul."

Never mind that the City Council - which had approved the measure 4-3 -- had yet to vote on whether to file an appeal. Heck, some council members hadn't even heard about the judge's decision yet.

So, we can't help but ask: Why is the city getting involved in this war anyway?

Until the council made such a big deal about the big bad banks ripping us off at $1.50 a pop, we'd never heard any one complain about the price gouging. (We estimated we've been gouged a total of $1.50 in the past three years.)

But let's say, for argument's sake, that there really is this big groundswell of angry ATM users ready to go into battle. Why does Santa Monica have to lead the charge? Why do we have to put our attorneys on the case, fly them to San Francisco, put them up if they need to stay a while on the tax payers' dime?

After all, the council knew that a month after passing its attention-grabbing ATM ban, San Francisco voters would take up an identical measure on the Nov. 2 ballot. Why not wait and let San Francisco lead the charge? If the council thought there was this big groundswell of angry ATM users, it certainly anticipated a victory at the polls. (San Francisco voters showed two to one that it's hard to turn down a freebie.) If they had only waited a month, Santa Monica could have saved all the time and work in "the long haul."

(To be fair, not all the council members backed the trailblazing ban - Micheal Feinstein and Kevin McKeown led the charge into the 15 minutes of fame, backed by Ken Genser and Richard Bloom. But Mayor Pam O'Connor, Robert Holbrook and Paul Rosenstein thought it wasn't such a good idea, arguing it would hurt the small community banks.)

So when the council prepares for the "long fight" ahead, maybe the champions of ATM users should reconsider getting into the battle for the "long haul." We say, let San Francisco carry the banner.

But then again, all those cameras at City Hall and those reporters snooping around the city's ATM machines may never come back. And with a big election coming up, that might not be such a good thing for some of our city fathers.

Jury for Jalili

So what's City Manager John Jalili doing when he retires on Friday after 25 years with the city?

You'd think he'd maybe travel around, hang out at his Manhattan Beach home, ride his bike, do a little gourmet cooking.

But no. What the man lauded at Tuesday's night's City Council meeting as the consummate public servant will be doing is, well, some more public service.

Seems Jalili - whose full-time job running the city has left little room for anything else - will be doing jury duty during the first three weeks of his retirement.

Watch out John. Here come the judge.

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