Leslie Belfor, publisher of the Culver City News.

Leslie Belfor, publisher of the Culver City News.

I was recently blessed with the knowledge that a chunk of my hard-earned money would be going to support Culver City. Now, I don’t mind supporting Culver City per se … I love Culver City … but I would have much preferred to buy some good stuff at local shops or some fabulous food at local restaurants and spread that expenditure out over a few months rather than get a $500+ camera ticket at the intersection of Beethoven Street and Washington Boulevard!

That isn’t even a busy intersection. I think the only reason a camera is there is to make money … not to control traffic. Who wants a ticket of any amount, right? Well … right … but … $500+ for running the tail end of a yellow light at a tiny intersection which rarely has cross traffic anyway?

I’m not saying I’m innocent or that I didn’t deserve to get a ticket. I obviously did. I saw the photo … and the video. I was guilty! But, come on … was I more than $500 guilty? If I had been caught by an actual officer, my ticket would have been a fraction of that amount. I don’t make a lot of money and that month I incurred a $700-auto repair bill. Throw in the $500 ticket and another $135 for traffic school … I was in a bad position when it came to paying my rent.

Robert Zirgulis pretty much based his City Council campaign on getting rid of the unreasonable, expensive and unfair Culver City camera tickets. Although he didn’t win, I’m with him on this point.

Am I more aware of that intersection at Beethoven and Washington? Heck yes! It scares me to death every time I drive through it. Is the idea to have people scared to death while driving? Or is it to deter them from making the same mistake again? I could be deterred for $50 … big deterrence would be $150. But $500 = scared to death.

I say, charge me more for parking in Culver City and give me a break with the camera tickets. Does anyone agree with me? … I bet you’ll agree when you get your Culver City camera ticket!

Gary Walker, investigative reporter for the Culver City News.

Gary Walker, investigative reporter for the Culver City News.

Glenn Esterly was an “old school” guy who lived for hard news and gave me one of the biggest and best gifts that an editor can give to a reporter – his trust and unwavering support. We lost Glenn much too soon to an untimely illness.

Scott Tittirington, who recently embarked on another journalistic adventure closer to his home in Simi Valley, was a good writer, had a great grasp of what real news is, an appreciation of good journalism (and good journalists) and like me, enjoyed working with professionals. And like Glenn, they both loved sports, especially baseball. As a Dodgers fan and a big-time baseball aficionado, that won them both 20 extra points!

Our publisher, Leslie Belfor, sets the tone in our office by entrusting the news staff to be independent, professional and dedicated. She knows that in order for a newspaper to function well, the news department must operate with independence and a laser-like focus on telling the news like it should be told: hard-hitting, without snarky opinions, manufactured crisises or cheerleading for local schools, service organizations or particular elected officials.

She also insists on having a very high standard regarding our news coverage. Our paper is not a blog, or an Internet website where anyone can pretend to be a reporter and anything, including hysterical “news coverage and scoops” of yard sales, face painting contests and who-has-the-prettiest-dress-on-the-block “stories” abound. I’ve seen experiments with nonprofessionals, and ladies and gentlemen, trust me, it doesn’t work!

Just think: would you trust a welder to operate on your heart because he’s “good with his hands?”

Our new editor, Scott Bridges, takes over the helm of the news department this week. I’m looking forward to working with Scott, another highly-qualified, professional editor. It should be a lot of fun.

Anyone can (and often do) write on blogs. That doesn’t require any professional training or even talent. But to write for or to edit a newspaper, a REAL newspaper, one that adheres to professional standards … well, that’s a different story.

Gary Walker
Culver City News
Investigative Reporter