Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Last Word on David "Zuma Dogg" Saltsburg

I remember the first time I met David "Zuma Dogg" Saltsburg. He was coming out of the City Clerk's Office on Ramirez Street as I was entering to pick up some signature petitions in order to run for Mayor. I had read the City Clerks Office website listing of candidates who had declared for the election, and had done a little research on all possible opponents in order to be prepared for any eventual debates. I didn't know much about David before meeting him. Previous to my running for Mayor, I had not attended any City Council meetings, I didn't watch Channel 35 or any other public access channels, and I had missed the LA Weekly issues where Zuma Dogg had been mentioned. Even though I was active politically and voted in every election, I had never heard of David "Zuma Dogg" Saltsburg. So naturally, I wondered, "Zuma Dogg" ??...Who is this guy?". 

Recognizing his trademark stocking cap and sunglasses from online articles,  I stopped him and introduced myself and we talked for a few minutes. "Awww man..!" he said, looking at my lapel button, "you already got professional buttons and everything?Awww man...!!". He seemed a bit distressed that other candidates were moving forward  and spending money, (even though none of us had officially met the technical requirements to be on the ballot). We had a little talk about the Mayor and the petition signature requirements for us both to run for Mayor. He mentioned a few things about his activism over the last three years. After a few minutes we said goodbye and went on our separate ways.

Little did I know that this was going to begin what I would call somewhat of an unusual friendship for me. Unusual in the fact that Zuma Dogg and I are politically and ideologically not on the same page, but we seem to get along just fine. My initial impression of him was not very positive. I thought that David was a bit of an odd fellow, somewhat of a hippy, and a definite wannabe rapper. I didn't think very much of him as a Mayoral opponent and I didn't think he would even get 500 votes in the election. I was clearly wrong about his level of voter support in the long run, but I remember it being my clear and honest opinion at the time. However, David changed my opinion about him during the campaign, and that was something that I did not expect.

I remember looking for information about David on the internet, as I wanted to be prepared to defeat all my opponents in the debates and in the election. There was plenty of information out there to find. Davids community activism was all over the internet. Photos, videos... all there to see... including this video, which is one of the most bizarre, but also one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen. I love the fact that Bernard Parks, a former Police Chief, a former Mayoral candidate, and a sitting City Council Member -- had to spend a minute of his day complaining about Zuma Dogg and his antics, only to have Eric Garcetti overrule him and have Zuma pull a prank on the whole Council exactly as Parks had warned. Too funny.

Fans and supporters of Zuma Dogg will tell you that he is a tireless community advocate, a fighter who supports the little guy against powerful political forces. On the other side of the aisle, critics of Zuma Dogg will tell you that he is a 44 year old man who refuses to get a job and financially support himself. They both have a point. 

My personal opinion of Zuma Dogg? I think David is interesting and funny -- a very animated and colorful guy. I respect the fact that Zuma Dogg is passionate enough about City politics to attend every City Council meeting for three years, giving him a much better attendance record than any of the current City Council Members, who get paid about 178K per year to do their jobs. I think Zuma Dogg serves a purpose in City politics, as he is often the source to whom insiders leak sensitive information about City misadventures. Do I think he has a career in politics ahead of him? No. Any political opponent he faced in the future could raise the issue that David has not been responsible enough in his personal life to warrant any consideration for a political office that included high-level responsibilities. I'm not being mean about this, I just think it is a fact. But hey... what do I know? On March 3rd 2009, over nine thousand people voted for Zuma Dogg to be Mayor of Los Angeles. He got fourth place in the election, even though he publicly admits on his blog to being homeless and sleeping on the streets. 

There have been many critics of Zuma Dogg in this forum that have been rather mean-spirited in their comments towards him and his lifestyle, and David has reacted negatively towards reading those comments. I don't think David has thick enough skin to deal with the abuse you face in life as an elected official. I think David has a calling somewhere else in life. I could see him as a radio show host. I could also see him as a side character on a TV show. Maybe even a rap music performer. He's really not that bad. I actually kind of liked his music video.