L.A. Mayoral Debate #2 or 60 Seconds Until Impact…..

Just moments ago, the second in a series of debates between the LA Mayoral candidates ended. Several places will be posting transcripts and rebroadcasts if you’re curious to read a blow by blow of the proceedings. Sponsored by the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters, the focus was on “the environment.”
Yes, the “issue” of “the environment.”
Whenever I hear this “issue” come up, I’m reminded of something a veteran political consultant in Seattle once told me years ago – that “the environment is a place, not an issue.” It’s something that sounds trite at first, but when you give it some thought, it makes you realize that the paradigm we discuss these “issues” with is often too confining, and too tied to traditional political rhetoric, to allow a real discussion to take place.
It wouldnt’ be a patented column by me about a debate without at least one paragraph bitching about the format of these things so if you want to skip this next paragraph or two, go ahead. I won’t be offended.
For those of you still with me, is it not amazing that you’d have some of the smartest and most committed people to La Causa De Environment in Los Angeles, asking some very big and detailed questions of our contenders limit everyone to the perfunctory one-minute/30-second/15 second responses they imposed on the process?
It seemed at times they wanted to ask so many big questions of the candidates in such a short time, that at times the debate felt a little rushed. I’ve got to wonder, why not just focus on say, 3 or 4 “big” wide ranging issues for a debate that’s focused on one subject, instead of trying to shoehorn every miscellaneous topic under the sun in an hour and a half?
Any time things got interesting, like when Hahn and Hertzberg finally got a chance to bitch at each other over the issue of state funding (or the lack of it) the moderators had to chime in and be “slaves” to the format. How about this? F**k the format and let them go at it for at least 60 seconds. Would not having one more question about subsection D of the water bill make democracy suffer?

End of format rant. Back to the debate!
There were not a lot of surprises (again) during this debate. Parks had his pre-mixed “up yours Mayor Hahn” comments ready to go (you had to love his sneer as he said that the Mayor had “an answer for everything and a solution for nothing.” Great line, Bernie. I bet whoever wrote that for you is really pleased with themself right now. In fact, half the answers given were not really answers to questions ,they were just more spit and piss at the Mayor. Hint to Bernie: we know you despise the Mayor. We got that. But now what?
I was more amused by his ardent insistence he was an environmentalist. I know lots of environmentalists who also find it necessary to pimp for Wal-Mart, a well known responsible steward for the environment. (Have we forgotten his “people will give their left arm for $9/hour” comment a while back?)
As I thought, we got a preview of the Hahn Response to the sniping at him by all of the Sacramento-oriented challengers, taking on the time-old conflict between local government and the Legislature on budget issues to their doorstep. How effective it was today is debatable, but as an argument against the challengers it rings true to voters, regardless of the minute details. Remember how I keep saying that the Legislature isn’t winning any awards for brilliance from the public?
Well the Mayor and his crew know this and areclearly trying to turn everyone’s laundry list of accomplishments as a Legislator against them. Tonight was the first salvo. How effective this is coming from someone with a checkered record of his own is another thing entirely, but never doubt the effectiveness of a million bucks of bile in the mailbox come February.
Former Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg again pushed his “big idea” agenda, with some success. One got the impression he had a lot to say and was somewhat constrained by the micro-soundbite format, since it seemed that he had a master plan for everything. One of Hertzberg’s strengths has been his ability to develop plicy, but it’s a weakness in the micro-bite format. How the campaign will find a way to communicate “big” in a “small” format is a challenge for him and his operation.
State Senator Richard Alarcon, who I’d dismissed as lacking steam earlier, came off a lot more thoughtful in many of his answers, so I’d like to take this moment to retract part of what I’d said before. However, he has an expensive campaign consultant and hasn’t been raising as much money, so hopefully this will be a shot in the arm for him going into the final few weeks of the campaign (hard to believe it’s almost ‘over’ isn’t it?)
Councilmember Antonio Villaraigosa also seemed to do much better this time, more clearly articulating a “One L.A.” theme he tried last time (right as he got his ass kicked by Mayor Hahn’s race-baiting campaign that basically labeled him a crack-dealing “Mexican”). More than once he emphasized the need to “come together” on issues that affect specific areas of the city, trying to emphasize that a problem in one part of LA is a problem for all.
It was clear this was the beginning of what we’re going to hear from Mr. Villaraigosa in the future, as part of an attempt to forge a progressive candidacy once again. Perhaps this time he’ll couple it with a couple of right-jabs at anyone who tries to slur him like certain Mayoral candidates did in 2001.
Overall, a nice little bloggable exchange just a few days before Christmas. I urge readers to check out other blogs, such as LA Voice and LA Observed and the various press outlets for other coverage. Until the next one, have a groovy Christmas season and a great New Year!
Side Note: I’m sure there will be folks that will use what I’m about to say to crucify me with the “communist” label, but so what? I found some of the best commentary about the mayoral race came on KPFK from former State Senator Tom Hayden.
Belittle him as a lefty rat all you like, but if you took the time to listen to him you’d realize that he has an interesting take on civic life here in L.A., and frankly cut through the trite BS that the discussion started out with.
I’ve often found that when you get past the cariacture of the “leftist” moniker the press and conservative pundits hit this guy with and listen to him, he’s got a lot to say, and it isn’t all about socialism or something. Years ago I had a chance to meet him via a Democratic Party workshop where they’d expected him to spout off some hippie rhetoric about the 1960s.
Instead he really laid it out why the Democratic Party at the time (1989) was not connecting with middle class voters and laid out a very effective vision for us, as young people, to find a way through the mess we were in. It wasn’t about socialism – it was about empowering people of all classes.
Right on, Tom!

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at www.schadelmann.com

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