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Proposal to put yellow ribbon on Hollywood sign stirs up conflict


A Los Feliz man seeking a seat on the Los Angeles City Council accused Councilman Tom LaBonge on Wednesday of mishandling a request to put a yellow ribbon on the Hollywood sign in time for Veterans Day.

Apartment owner Tomas O'Grady said LaBonge unfairly turned down a proposal by David Weiss, a former Marine who lives in Newport Beach, to install the ribbon display at a cost of $11,000 to honor U.S. veterans. Veterans Day is Thursday.

Standing with a small group of people holding signs that said "Yellow Ribbon Vs. Red Tape," O'Grady said the rejection of the request showed how difficult it is for businesses and other individuals to get a fair hearing from City Hall. Although his campaign spokesman sent an e-mail saying "Military Vets gather to demand recognition and to have yellow ribbon draped on Hollywood sign," O'Grady said he simply wants to change the process for reviewing such requests.

"I'm glad if the ribbon is rejected, as long as it's rejected in a transparent way," he said.

Weiss, 48, said LaBonge reneged on a promise last month to put up the ribbon display, hours after they reached a "handshake" agreement.

LaBonge had a different recollection of their conversation, saying he offered to help Weiss meet with the Hollywood Sign Trust, the organization that reviews requests for displays on the sign.

"I can't give that approval. I think he misunderstood," LaBonge said. "He was a very enthusiastic individual."

LaBonge said he was worried about running afoul of the city's sign laws and felt there was too little time to review Weiss' proposal in time for Veterans Day. He said he offered Weiss a counter-proposal that might have met his time line: placing a ribbon on Los Angeles City Hall, which he described as a "dramatic" building.

Weiss, who served in the Marines from 1981 to 1986, said he did not like that idea.

"I object to it on a number of different levels," said Weiss, standing outside City Hall next to O’Grady. "I appreciated that there was some gesture made, but it was a difficult gesture to maneuver. I'm talking about putting a fabric on a hunk of tin in the middle of the mountains. That is infinitely easier."

LaBonge is running in the March 8 election for a third four-year term, representing a district that includes parts of Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Koreatown and Hollywood. O'Grady, one of five men planning a challenge to LaBonge, said he scheduled the news conference to demand that the city's approval process is fair for restaurants and other businesses seeking permits.

"This might look like me jumping on a political bandwagon, but it's anything but," he said.

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (28)

Are you jacking me, LA Times?

I can't believe you gave this clown any press at all!

If John Thomas said his candidate would make the sky purple, you would show up and cover it.

I would like to clarify that my interest here is creating a clear set of steps, so that anyone can apply to attach anything to the Hollywood sign.
No such process exists. Statements like" if Tom LaBonge says it's ok, then it's ok" are not acceptable for one of the world's most famous icons. We have too much personality in City hall and too little process.
In order to get to the bottom of "He said, She said", we ought to now be able to look at an application that was filed, and then see the responses from various city agencies, boards etc. No such file exists. So much for the Brown act.

Tomas O'Grady
City Council Candidate, Los Angeles CD4

Important clarifications re: Yellow Ribbon vs. Red Tape!

This Project was at no cost to the city. The $11,000 cost would've been covered by the Veteran's groups as a supporting gesture. The Veteran-owned company that enthusiastically agreed to fabricate the sign also agreed to cover half of the cost. The material was chosen for a specific purpose...to be safe and to prevent wind-loading on the sign. And when it's taken down, it will be symbolically stretched across the U.S. and cut into shade structures for Veteran's rehabilitation facilities as well as across the globe as pennants for military posts and vessels.

Where the chronology is clear, the meaning is not. I first sought permission of the Trust, who sent me to Council Member La Bonge. On Oct. 8, at 12:15 pm, Tom said that he was going to "endorse this project" and shook my hand. He confirmed this endorsement by calling the President of the Hollywood Chamber on his private numbers, echoing his endorsement. He handed the phone to me, and Leron also endorsed the initiative. I keep meticulous mission logs and have confirmatory emails...and yes, I am enthusiastic, passionate, and mission-oriented, my question is why aren't the L.A. City officials?

I understand the Council Member's concern about running afoul of the legislation and ordinances that govern the sign's usage - they are certainly ambiguous and problematic. However, in my two previously approved Hollywood Sign projects, and in my extensive review of the existing documentation (with the assistance of former city attorneys), this project is possible, and in fact, conforms to the letter of the law more stringently that the city's "Save the Peak" campaign which obscured the "character of the edifice" of the Hollywood sign.

My Mission is, was, and always will be to honor our Fighting Forces and Veterans, as I have twice before. I am not political and this is not a political act. It was supposed to be an anonymous gesture done for the city, at no cost to the city, which has been hung up in red tape.

La Bonge is not my enemy, nor is the city I grew up in. Tomas heard about the project and its struggles and it resonated with him. He offered to help, and in this project, which has eaten 11,000 cell minutes, 220 emails, 50 faxes and time I did not anticipate, help is something I was happy to have.

My Team is not trying to do ANYTHING but put up a Californian style salute to honor our under-appreciated VETERANS and their FAMILIES on an old friend...the Hollywood Sign. Please help us to make this a salute that becomes a Hollywood/California trademark of our enduring respect and appreciation of our nation's veterans and their families.


David Weiss
USNA 85, USMC 86

PS: I appreciated the City Hall gesture even though the story/image would not have made it out of LA county...the logistics were much more difficult: rigging on an occupied historic building, with traffic issues and unknown dimensions is not an easy fix. I asked for specifications on several occasions & in at least seven emails and received no answer. It was not a flat rejection on my part...simply put, my 4 yr old sons shirt would not fit on the Govenator, no more that the Hollywood Sign Ribbon would fit on City Hall. If one offers an alternative to avoid having to deal with what ever the real issue is, one must follow it up with action.

Tomas..... Really? And why would anyone want to attach anything to the Hollywood Sign? We can't even get the sign lit up at night (which would be pretty cool), and most days you can't even see it. Maybe you should request that LAX change the colors on their light installment at the entrance to Yellow... Seems that is a lot easier, and more cost effective considering the City's financial status (and you're running for a counsel seat?)

Why turn the Hollywood sign into some recruiting ploy for the flag-waving, jingoistic, brainwashed armed forces? Is it so they can send more people to die senselessly in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Do we really need to politicize the Hollywood sign? The $11,000 could be better put to use helping the many poor, ill and homeless veterans in Los Angeles. I think it's sad that so much money and effort is being put into such a superficial display.

You think veterans day is a recruiting tool?

You sir are lost.

tie a yellow ribbon on the old oak tree.

And exactly why the good military man should be turned down.....condescending arrogance ...... he himself couldn't have expressed it better.

The Hollywood Sign is more than a 'hunk of tin in the middle of the mountains'....it's an international icon.

No group has has rights to it....it's OURS, and the world's.

Let him proceed ? Sure.....then you'll have a thousand and one noble group causes petitioning to erect their own oversize proclamations. That'd be fun, no ? A new draping every day of the year. Just what tourists come a long ways to see.

Leave it alone.


That yellow ribbon on the Hollywood sign would make sure that our troops went into combat with proper armor, that their Humvees were also armored, and that any soldiers returning home from combat received all of the medical and social care they required.

By putting a yellow ribbon on the Hollywood sign, all of that would have been achieved, at no cost to the tax payer.

Maybe empty rhetoric is fun for some, but for the rest of us, this type of idea is shallow, meaningless, and a little offensive.

O'Grady, stay in Orange County.

NO DOUBT, the politicos would 'OK!' one of those cheesy Super Graphics, so long as the proper 'tribute$' were made to the Party in Power? THIS, is how our politicians keep POWER - thru TRIBUTE......NO TRIBUTE, NO JOY...and still, you fools, re-elect the same tired millionaires.

This is an utterly ridiculous story that should not have gained any following or attention for several reasons: 1) this Marine gentleman although noble in his intentions, is not a resident of Los Angeles, he lives in Newport Beach and should therefore pursue this gesture in the city of Newport or in Orange County. 2) The "candidate" that called the press conference is obviously seeking some sort of attention and should, in my fair opinion, preoccupy himself with helping his community and making himself known for something positive rather than this ridiculous sideshow.

Is the process slow, absolutely, but there are other ways to demonstrate this bureaucratic resistance without using a very significant date as a ruse.

Furthermore, with so many military personnel coming home with both physical and mental scars, I believe the $11,000 that were encumbered for this "ribbon" could be directed towards a more practical and needed cause such as the rehabilitation of these wounded warriors.

"a Californian style salute to honor our under-appreciated VETERANS "

At least since 9/11, I don't think our veterans are under-appreciated and I therefore question the need for the ribbon.

However, while I do think the idea of the project is commendable, I don't understand why hanging a yellow ribbon on the sign would make anyone appreciate our veterans more. Nor am I sure anyone would know what the ribbon would mean, since the use of yellow ribbons has been used for a variety of purposes.

As a Veteran, I do not agree with Mr. Weiss that our military is under-appreciated nor do I agree the Hollywood sign needs to be spoiled with a yellow ribbon. I fought in two wars, not for ribbons or free meals or Vet days at Disneyland; I volunteered because I felt is was the right thing to do. Not everyone agreed and I fought for the right for those people to express that opinion as well.

When Mr. Weiss and Mr. O'Grady turn my service into a political stunt (if you do not believe politics are behind this "complaint", then you're being naive) I lose respect for both gentleman.

How about: No. Flat-out no. If the veterans are granted this privilege, then every other cause on earth is going to demand the same right. My brother was in Iraq and I've done my share of volunteering, supporting, and financially donating to veterans' causes. So I'm not against the vets. I just think this is too much to ask. Sorry.

Being a veteran myself, I can't for the life of me see how a yellow ribbon on the Hollywood sign would be viewed by me and my fellow veterans as some kind of special honor. There are a lot better things to do with that money. Use it to make improvements to legitimate monuments to those who served a and those who died in service to our country.

One more point .. Who the heck picked yellow .. Red is the color of courage .. Yellow is the color for something else. Nuff said.

@Tomas "I would like to clarify that my interest here is creating a clear set of steps, so that anyone can apply to attach anything to the Hollywood sign."

Really? You are running for City Council and that's what you want to fight for? There are a lot more important things going on in CD4 than this. Besides, why would you want to open the gates to every corporate interest and group with an agenda to take over the Hollywood sign. What purpose would that serve other than to get you your :15 seconds worth of digital ink?

I can see the Hollywood sign from my street. I would have liked to have seen a big yellow ribbon up there today if only as an antidote to what we have to listen to in our classes at our community college. I have no right to speak for soldiers, but at least I've finally worked out for myself that they go to suffer and sometimes die over there so that we can have fatuous converstions about them over here.

A healthy albeit acerbic debate with out fear of reprisal, thanks in part to Veterans.

The $11K becomes $50K of shade structure for Vets rehab facilities…show me any support organization that can make that kind of multiple out of their funds.

This project began before I knew anything about the district, councilman, the race…and will continue because I feel it is the right thing to do. This feeling has been reinforced and echoed by all the nine Veterans organizations and Veterans I have communicated with. And for the exception of “not at this time” below (thank you for your service and voicing your opinion) not everyone feels the same. I volunteered for service as did my brother because it was/is the right thing to do, we love this country for all its greatness and opportunities to correct its flaws and are/were willing to do what ever needs to be done to protect it, our freedom and our way of life.

Why the Hollywood Sign? Besides having done it twice before for Armed Forces/Veterans causes…it’s iconic and represents California well…it’s in an area that doesn’t interrupt traffic/work, it’s a straight forward installation and the images will absolutely reach our fighting forces where ever they are. It is a rendering of honors, you have a better idea…I’d be happy to help you run with that.

I grew up in LA and have lived all over the world in uniform and out...where I presently reside has as much bearing as what I am currently wearing to the project at hand.

oops, Nine National Veterans Organizations...I have communicated with hundreds of Veterans...

Why do we have to celebrate warmonging and their sheepish supporters? Isn't it enough that we have to see those stupid yellow ribbons on every single Saturn or minivan?

Typical OC Republican trying to tell us what to think.

I am never surprised to find anonymous posts of this kind by people who, through their lack of understanding, equate appreciation of Veterans with warmongering. Warmongering happens on a different level than the one occupied by those who have to physically engage in the fight. Common sense tells us that. Soldiers go to war because their country tells them to…and the Soldier honors that commitment. Honoring those who keep their commitments against the hardships, separation and sacrifice does not make one a warmonger anymore than turning into a driveway makes one a car.

I was a soldier, I was never a warmonger. I think as a civilization we can come up with much more constructive ways to resolve differences than sending our young people into harms way. Until we ALL evolve, their will be forces who want to inflict harm on innocent people, so their will be a need for soldiers to protect them in the form of military or police. I appreciate the commitment, duty and sacrifice our soldiers and their families make every day as well as veterans that preceded them.

Gosh. I support the troops and I'm certain they know we support them even when we don't wrap the Hollywood sign with ribbon. Also, to what other causes do we wnt to use this historical building for? How @ a rainbow ribbon for our gay soldiers who fear for their career so much they cannot call home?

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