Southern Californians usually take it in stride when people cast aspersions on their life style. But even Southern Californians must draw the line somewhere.
Now one of their own -- U.S. Magistrate John Kronenberg of Los Angeles -- has crossed that line.
Kronenberg aroused the ire of Los Angelenos by releasing an accused child molester on bail Thursday, saying he posed no danger to the citizens of Los Angeles because the city has no "community standards." The order was promptly reversed by a federal judge.
"I can't speak for Palo Alto," Kronenberg said, referring to the defendant's home town, "but community standards here with regard to sexual conduct are practically nonexistent. I don't think we have any community standards here . . ."
"Whose appointee is this turkey?" Rep. Bobbi Fiedler, a Los Angeles Republican, asked yesterday. "I will certainly do everything I can, and use what political leverage I can, to see that he's removed from office."
Kronenberg, who was appointed in 1973 by a panel of federal judges, argued that a recent series on Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner in the Los Angeles Times -- "glorifying one of the leading pornographers in the country" -- proved just how low the city's morals have sunk. "The strangest reasoning I've ever heard from a magistrate's bench," said William Thomas, the newspaper's editor.
Kronenberg declined to elaborate on his remarks. But there was no shortage of Los Angelenos eager to put them into perspective. One citizen, Los Angeles City Council member Ernani Bernardi, known as a vocal foe of vice, said the magistrate should be complaining about the court system, not the city.
"Did you know that in order to get a prostitution conviction in one of these massage parlors," Bernardi said, "a police officer has to almost complete the act?"
Bobbi Fiedler, for her part, said, "For anyone to imply that the people of our community would condone sexual assault against anyone, much less against children, is not only a gross misstatement of the truth, but an outrage."
"A bizarre notion of community standards," said Rep. Mel Levine, a Santa Monica Democrat. "I don't think people take him seriously. He's somebody who nobody ever heard of until he made these statements."
Said Los Angeles City Council member Howard Finn, "I was appalled . . . I think he's probably a little bit frustrated because society doesn't obey his own personal morals."
"I think it's somewhat intemperate of the judge," said council member David Cunningham. "L.A. is nowhere near Sodom and Gomorrah. They tell me Sodom and Gomorrah is somewhere east of the Hudson River."
"Every city has its detractors," said Ray Remy, president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. "Just because one person offers an opinion, it doesn't mean that 3 million people have to agree."
Capt. James Docherty, commander of the Los Angeles Police Department's Administrative Vice Division, called Kronenberg's comments "a personal affront to the vast majority of the people of Southern California." He added, however, that Los Angeles is "the porn capital of the world," perhaps attracting budding performers who end up down and out in Hollywood.
"Young people come here thinking they're going to become movie stars, and they fall victim to the depraved people who see this weakness -- maybe some degenerate who comes here from Pawtucket, Rhode Island," Docherty said. "Just like any large metropolitan area, a lot of deviates might be drawn here because they get lost in the crowd and can do their thing."