Friday, February 17, 2006

State of Hollywood Story #5: Shawn O'Connor (and Renee Zellweger!)

Shawn O'Connor is a senior at Hollywood High School, home of the Sheiks, where he has lettered in varsity football for three years. Last year, with help from with my brother-in-Hollywood Councilmember Tom LaBonge, my office found the funds to light up Hollywood High School's gridiron for the first ever night game in its history.

The performances of Shawn O'Connor and his team that night, under the lights with the bleachers packed, were nothing short of spectacular. With just sixteen seconds left to play and Polytechnic up 28-21, the Sheiks scored a touchdown and pulled off a two point conversion, with Shawn blocking, to win by the smallest margin possible, 29-28. They didn't just win the game: they broke a more-than-twenty-game league losing streak. And they kept it broken.

Hollywood has known the pain of a bad losing streak.


There was a time when it seemed like we'd been down so long we didn't know what up was. But lately we've known grace, and we've known triumph. And now it's our night game. The lights are on and the stakes are high.

I've tried to tell the stories of people who point the way forward for us as a city. Whether a homeowner who takes back her neighborhood, a business that sets up shop on a geographical edge, a cook who makes it to the top and another one that comes back from the bottom, or a homeless man who finds the help he needs to turn his life back around, each has found success by drawing on the people and opportunities around them, each have created a vital part of our growing city, and none has done it alone.

Writ large, each provides the lessons we need to take from the last few years about reclaiming our neighborhoods, nurturing our businesses, and planning our city. The smart growth and strong community that has developed in the thirteenth council district, an urban, diverse, struggling and thriving slice of Los Angeles, shows the way forward for the whole city.

The subject of my last story didn't join me for my address to the Chamber, but I think her tale embodies the luck, ambition, dreams and drive that Los Angeles needs (and very much has).

In 1988, a young film student at the University of Texas visited Hollywood on spring break. She and her friends used up two whole rolls of film snapping pictures of stars along the Walk of Fame. She swore that one day she would be a part, however small, of the magic of Hollywood.

Last May, Renee Zellweger returned to the Walk of Fame not to photograph the stars but to join them. As she laid her own plaque down amid the galaxy-in-terrazzo along Hollywood Boulevard, she recounted how she’d "crossed her fingers" that she would come back, but she "never, ever imagined a day like this."

I remember walking on Hollywood Boulevard with my own dream, five years ago, on my way to a candidates' debate. To represent the thirteenth district on the Los Angeles City Council seemed just as far out of my grasp that day.

Robert Kennedy one said that "the future may be beyond our vision, but it is not beyond our control."

We can never let our successes blind us—we've got too much left to do. Too many children to protect, too many homeless to house, too many parks to build, too many jobs to grow, too much gridlock to unlock, too many schools to build. But we know in our heart that that glimpse of the future is more hopeful now that it has ever been.