Category Archives: Los Angeles Politics

As The Media and Everyone Loses Their Sh*t over Bell, CA Corruption, A Reminder…

By now, the big story the Los Angeles Times “broke” about the excessively high salaries in tiny Bell, CA has been the outrage heard ’round the world, and the fallout has begun, complete with resignations, recriminations, investigations and more. Politicians of all stripes are seeking to make a name for themselves going after these goofuses. While it’s righteous and harmonious that these looters get some punishment, let’s not all pat the LA Times on the back for it’s alleged “investigative reporting.
Why? Simple – this is not a new story in Bell, or any of the little towns outside of Los Angeles, many of which have faced similar corruption scandals in the past. In fact, I wrote about these corrupt little burgs seven years ago when neighboring communities were mired in similar scandals (and yes, at the time Bell was paying people bazillions of dollars in “perks” while city services starved).
In my old blog post from an old blog long since dead, I detailed why: many of these towns have a disenfranchised electorate that either can’t vote, or simply don’t, no one covers these towns and their myriad of contracts and payments and whatnots so there’s no transparency to said local governments, and frankly the LA Times has “reported” on this on occasion, but doesn’t really care either. A huff and puff editorial in 2003 rings hollow when you consider that Bell’s shenanigans were going on -and the Times did nothing in the ensuing years to keep the heat on local governments like it claimed was a good idea.
So while everyone at the LA Times is high fiving each other and reveling in the attention just remember – this is nothing new, this has been happening for ages, and will continue to happen until something changes. It’d be nice to think the Times would be the innovator in finding a way to connect these residents with their local government and inform them so they’d stop voting for these idiots, but between Sam Zell and the overall cluelessness of the newspaper “industry,” I’m not holding out for any miracles.

IRV/RCV Backers Bash Me at the LA Times! Woo Hoo!

When I compare the pageview statistics for this site vs. The N Judah Chronicles, or even Adama for President, I more or less figure that this site is read by me, my friends, and the occaisional person who googles something or sees a link at someone else’s site, and that’s it.
Thus, it was hilarious to read the LA times Blog today and see not one, but two random commenters bashing me because I don’t worship at the altar of “Ranked Choice Voting” (or “Instant Runoff Voting”) without question. Um, what?
You really can’t have a reality-based discussion on this issue – the people pushing it are so jihad-like in their fervor, they can’t accept any opposing views (or even suggestions to make it better). They don’t like questions being asked, or suggestions that it isn’t the Only Way To Make Elections Work. All they know is attack attack attack. You wonder if these people ever achieved real power if we wouldn’t have “Thought Police” to knock down your door if you don’t adhere to the Party Line. Ah well.
They certainly don’t like the fact that RCV/IRV had no real impact in most recent elections, and instead spend their time calling me names (kinda like a 9-year old might in the schoolyard), or distorting things I’ve said to suit their needs. Who knew my little political blog had so much influence I still get hate mail from these children? The mind reels at the kind of power I could be wielding with this thing (even if most people would rather talk MUNI or Adama).
Which is fine. You can read everything I’ve written about gimmicky “reforms” for yourself and decide on your own what to think. Personally I’m glad the hatahs are linking back to the site – more ad revenue and more pageviews for the site. Thanks guys!
PS: This just reaffirms once again why people don’t like leftists, or frankly any ideological extremists. They’re so intent on demanding absolute loyalty, without any hint of dissent, they become really nasty people to be around. News flash, people: being jerks doesn’t help your cause – try being a little nicer and people respond in kind. It seems to work for Obama and even McCain, you can have your principles and brown rice, and still be cool.

Blogger Coverage of the California Democratic Convention This Weekend

Normally, I’d be headed to a state Democratic Convention in Northern California, because just as artistic folks go to Burning Man, and my comics/anime/film friends go to Comic-Con, folks like me go to these things because you can get your political geek on, in the company of friends and strangers and not feel weird.
In fact, when I re-launched my blog in 2006 I did so armed with a press pass at the CDP convention, which was rather fun (and cheap – Sacramento affords many hotel deals, it seems) and went to the 2003 and 2004 conventions as well
This time around, I didn’t think I was going to be in town this weekend so I didn’t make any plans, but had a trip pushed back at the last minute. By then, any decent rates on hotels were not to be found, and I couldn’t get a press pass in time. Ah well. Probably for the best, as I have tons of other work to do, both for work and for my 15 minutes of Internet fame thanks to the awesome folks at (Note to self: never allow yourself to be filmed unless you’re dressed to impress, you never know where that video might end up, along with your improv skillz).
However, if you’re looking for blogger coverage, fret not, for many of San Francisco’s “A-List” Bloggers&trade will be on the case. The gang from will be there, as will Sweet Melissa and Beth Spotswood, and plenty of others (whom I’ll add to the list as I discover ’em online). The party itself will stream live video at their site, but as we all know the real fun and drama goes on in the many caucuses, after hours parties, and whatnot at these things.
The funniest thing about this convention is the lack of drama in the Presidential race since we had this stupid idea that moving our primary “ahead” would make us more “relevant” and whatnot. Oddly enough, if California had simply kept all its primaries in June as God and Man Intended, California would literally be the king-maker in the race as one of the last primaries with a sizeable cache of delegates, super or not.
As it stands, most of the drama will be in races for state Assembly and Senate where term limits have created open seats, and of course there’s the Migden/Leno/Nation drama-fest as well. Not nearly as much fun as having a host of presidential show up at your convention, but for us Political Nerds it’ll be fun.
Or something.

Friday Fun: Sup. Braithwaite Burke Doesn’t Live in HER District EITHER!

Although I do not live in Los Angeles any longer, I still read the LA Times, partially out of interest for some subjects they still cover, and partially because watching a once-great paper get torn apart by corporate bean counters and morons is kind of like watching a train wreck in slow motion.
This week, the LA Times did some investigative reporting* on one of the all-powerful LA County Supervisors, investigating if she lives in her district, or in the tony Brentwood area. Needless to say, she doesn’t, and she had a command of “junkie logic” as she changed her story more than once.
It’s interesting to compare the reporting methodology of the Times, which sent people day in and day out to find out the facts, whereas the Chronicle’s style seems to be a bit more laid back, waiting for a phone call from a PR person or an expert from City Hall.
Perhaps I am wrong. But it is also interesting to note that the LA County Prosecutor has successfully nailed folks playing games like this, whereas we still seem to have a bit of fumble and tumble around here.
Score another victory for Los Angeles, who, despite the State Assembly’s budget cuts (shame on you Fiona Ma and Mark Leno) to mass transit, is making improvements in that area. Meanwhile, our Mayor sides with the “cars-only-screw-everyone-else” crowd, and MUNI has meltdowns weekly.
Sad. Just sad.
* San Franciscans on a diet of local media might be confused as to what the term “Investigative Reporting” means, esp. in print…you may need to seek out a news source out of the area to find an example…but hurry! Every day another reporting staff gets fired so some trailer park owner or real estate developer or hedge fund can save a few pennies…then groan about how no one reads their thin, boring, crappy dino-papers anymore….

California Primary Political Mail Archive is Up at!

The first step of our Disinfo Rehab project is up and online! Thanks to good friends on the Peninsula and in San Francisco, as well as some trusty campaign volunteers, I’ve posted the first of what will be many entries into a Political Direct Mail Web Archive that you, the citizen, can review in advance of California’s Primary Election on June 6th. (Temporarily, PDF files submitted to the arcive are featured here while we get Flickr to cooperate!)
Currently the archive features entries from State Senate Candidate Mike Nevin , who has some of the most novel mail pieces, evoking an earlier era in campaign themes, as well as a piece I picked up at a street fair last weekend from the campaign of Fiona Ma, who is running in Assembly District 12.
More from our gubernatorial candidates, our friends in high and low places, and those running for other offices will be featured as the days go by. You may also make submissions by email by sending me an email with your reasonably sized JPEGs or PDFs of stuff you find.
Oddly enough, because I recently re-registered only a few months ago into the new house I moved into, I’m not getting the volume of doubleplusungoodmail I usually get. So, if you’re looking at that steaming pile of dead trees, and thinking of junking it, think again!
I’m offering a drink bounty to voters for new and unusual pieces of mail, in particular those sent out by special interests influencing the outcome of many of the Legislative elections in California, where so many people are running for ever so many offices.
Enjoy the archive and keep coming back as more images (and more commentary) are added to the new disinfobabble and artistic licenses issued by today’s politickers. Consultants are also welcome to submit pieces they are proud of, as well.
UPDATE: Big updates coming this weekend. Meanwhile, check this article out discussing the increasingly flat out false mail going out to the public.
UPDATE 2 – May 28th: More pieces have been added from the Reilly/Ma race and the Yee/Nevin/Papan race….anyone wishing to submit pieces they’ve received should email me with their entries…thanks!
Oh and some advice for the volunteers eager to tell us about their candidates – the moment you put a handout or a piece of unauthorized crap in a mailbox, not only do you earn bad karma, but you are also committing a federal crime. Just last night I found two piecesfor a candidate for DCCC shoved in my mailbox at home in the Inner Sunset. Not smart. Kids, learn the rules and play it safe, ok?

Final LA Election Report- Does the LA Times read the LA Daily News? and How About a REAL Look at The Insiders?

Every campaign cycle has the obligatory “guys who run campaigns” story, that usually is little more than a resume of each “guy” with anecdotes. From reading these kinds of stories, you’d think the reporters just buy a “Mad Libs” pad and insert (name of politico) in (year of story) and (write it like that).
The LA Times did its obligatory piece on Friday the 13th (ha!) While these are of mild interest, nothing in them tells the reader anything they ddid not already know, or hear, the last time these pieces were written.
Each “bigwig” got their name, their age, a paragraph about their past work, a few quippy lines, and that’s about it. Great. I read this and wonder just what it is I, the reader, am supposed to learn from this article? There’s no real questioning about what it is these guys have been doing this cycle, nor is there any real discussion about what their role is, and is not in this campaign cycle.
It serves to reinforce preconceived notions of these guys as something they’re not, and we don’t get any real examination of the role of people who play an important part in how and why we discuss the election in the terms we usually do.
It’d be far more informative if we had a reporter or two (or three) as a guy like Kam Kuwata how he can say some of the things he does with a straight face, and expect people to take him at his word based on what’s been said as Hahn’s spokesman this cycle, for example.
It might be interesting to talk to someone like Ace Smith, and as for a macro-level discussion on just what “opposition research” is and is not in a campaign like Villaraigosa’s. Or even better, ask some of these guys about the campaigns they’ve lose (i.e. Bill Carrick’s loss with Rep. Dick “Screamer” Gephardt” ) and what they’ve learned (if anything) from the experience. Even better, call up Sen. Dianne Feinstein and ask her what she thinks of some of Hahn’s tactics in 2005 – and how that’ll affect her decisions in 2006?
The biggest problem with the political consulting business is that for the most part it is a largely unexamined piece of the advertising business. True, there have been some excellent studies done by James Thurber at American University, and occasionally you read a decent article somewhere. But overall, it is an industry without much serious discussion, which is unfortunate.
Switching gears, there was another story, the obligatory “let’s do a piece about the underlings who work on these things” piece in the main Los Angeles papers. I’m surprised no one noticed how the Los Angeles Times article, which appeared on May 14th, was almost identical to one that the Los Angeles Daily News ran on May 8th.
More importantly, it raises a basic question – are so few people working on the respective campaigns of Jimi Hahn and Tony Villaraigosa that these are the only two underlings that were worth spending any ink on? Might there be some people, perhaps some actually from Los Angeles, the press could have talked to?
Personally, when I read accounts like this of why some young people get into politics, or talk to younger folks, I tend to wince when I hear someone describe themselves as a “political junkie,” and seem to thrive only on the game itself, and for no other reason.
Years ago, I met Tom Hayden at UC Santa Barbara, and he said something to a group of us assembled to learn more about getting involved in the political process. Basically he said (and please bear with the paraphrasing of an event I attended 16 years ago) that young people should pursue whatever it is they believe in or wish to advance, and use the Democratic Party and the political process to achieve their goals as they see fit, and not just become a party apparatchnik for the sake of “politics.”
It was a lesson worth learning, and one, I’m afraid did not reach too many people in the room. However, it’s something these young guns on the Hahn and Villairaigosa campaigns would be wise to heed. The “thrill of the game” ends quickly, and you have to decide on some level what it is you are trying to really accomplish.
It’s easy to become so consumed with polls, swing votes, percentages, and focus groups, forgetting in the process that if you’re not really focused on accomplishing something, you end up looking back at your “career” in politics and find you’ve spent a lot of money, done a lot of neat campaign tricks, but have little to show for it.
To me that’s not very satisfying, but then again, I’ve been in this line of work for a while. I suppose for some others, like the aforementioned Big Wigs of Politics, that’s all that seems to matter. I guess I’ll never know, since all I have to go on are those “Mad Libs” style puff pieces in the Times.
Anyone want to prove me wrong?
PS: Here’s a fun story for some enterprising reporter to consider: Take a look at the many talented people who got some of their early start with Tom Hayden’s Campaign for Economic Democracy in the late 70s and early 80s.
A quick review of the folks who got their start with Hayden and Jane Fonda’s organization would be a Who’s Who of some of the smartest people in politics today, many of whom have retained some sense of idealism or political leanings since their days with CED. I could print a partial list here, but I would not want to insult anyone by accidentally leaving them off the list. Still, it would be interesting.
I’ve often felt that the repeated demonization of Hayden by conservatives obscured many of his actual accomplishments in the public eye. Remember, it was Hayden, in retirement, who shut down Gov. Doofinator’s attempts to change pet rescue las by unleashing the power of a network of  pet owners and their army of Pound Puppies to smack down the Doofinator, and send him in full retreat.
I’ll be looking….Reporters, start your engines!

© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at

Final Thoughts on the L.A. Mayor’s Race or Time for Voters to Take Charge!

In about a week, the Los Angeles Mayor’s race will come to an end. Finally.
In the run-up to Election Day voting, there’s been a tremendous amount of political chaff being dropped by all sides. It’s time to cut through the day-to-day noise that’s passing for “political commentary” these days, and recap what we’ve seen for the past four years from our Mayor, and what we can hope to get out of next week’s vote
We have two candidates, who, by their own admission, and the attacks lobbed at them by their opponents, aren’t perfect. Both have qualities that make them at least somewhat qualified for the job, and both have faults, some bigger than others, as well. So how do we look at this race and come to a conclusion?
This election is by necessity a referendum on the tenure of Mayor Jim Hahn. The job of the voters is clear – they need to decide if the work he’s done so far merits him another four years in office, or if someone else needs to be given a chance to do better. Cutting through all the chatter of the PR team, as near as I can tell Incumbent Hahn’s primary focus has been:
1. Raising re-election cash
2. Rewarding donors who gave to him in a close race in 2001
3. (See #1)
4. Rewarding donors who gave to him in a close race in 2005
5. (See #1)
The fact is, we would not have even had a competitive race for Mayor if the myriad of challengers didn’t think that the incumbent hadn’t been doing his job. We’ve read too many stories about people paying for access to the Mayor’s office, problems with “PR” contracts between the City and Fleishman Hillard, and a lot of time and energy spent by the mayor raising money, giving government goodies to his friends, and the like. Any time he’s called on it, he responds with the “best defense is a good offense” rhetoric. Great politics, lousy policy, Jimi.
Now, it might be excusable if a Mayor had a less-than-perfect ethics rating if perhaps he had something to show for his four years in office. But aside from one good hiring decision (Cheif William Bratton), the Mayor has not been a bold leader on any major issues. The “Jimi come lately” to such issues as the County Seal, film production subsidies, and any other “issues” that he’s brought up in the past few weeks
The only time we get to see any big ideas is in the remaining weeks of a runoff campaign, when, in need of something to put on a targeted mail piece, we get some big talk at the end of the race. Perhaps Mayors oughta be limited to 6 months in office so we can get more “big ideas” out of them since they’ll always be in the death throes of a campaign cycle?
There’s no denying that Councilmember Tony Villaraigosa is not a perfect candidate, and has had some missteps of his own. Running for Mayor in the middle of his council term does not help, and he’s had to return some funny money of his own. The difference is that he’s not been afraid to stand up for what he’s done and take responsibility for his actions – and not hide behind PR consultants and taxpayer paid flacks.
More importantly, this is, as I said before, a referendum on The Mayor, first and foremost. And as I said before, it’s time to ask ourselves if we can do better than the guy in the job now. A huge number of people in government & business who have worked with the incumbent have chosen his opponent, flaws and all and the most Hahn’s PR time can do is denigrate these elected officials and trot out the endorsements of crank politicos like Walter “I Dislike Mexicans” Moore.
Which brings me to the thing that has bothered me the most about Jimi Hahn this time around – his campaigns sharp tilt to the right to try and scoop up a few votes and use covert racial appeals to drive up turnout amongst people he perceives Don’t Like Mexicans. It’s cynical, it’s wrong and I’m not the only one to say so.
Garry South, in the LA Daily News takes Mayor Hahn and his crew to task for their newfound interest in Tony Villaraigosa’s skin color, and he’s not too impressed, aiming his comments squarely at Bill Carrick and Kam Kuwata, who are running the Mayor’s race.
To me, it just shows me that should Mayor Hahn get re-elected with such a cynical campaign, he will have a much harder time leading the city than he does now. While now he only has the ethical cloud over his head, in a Second Jimi Administration, he’ll have both ethics and ethnic clouds for the rest of his political life. Certainly not something Daddy Ken would endorse. And certainly no way to run a major city.
So, I have this message for my Republican friends who are looking at their final choices and aren’t happy and offer this advice: I know this election sucks for you. I know you look at these guys and are wondering how to vote when they’re both liberal Democrats who are identical on most issues, and whom you disagree with.
It’s no fun when you’re put in this position because you want to vote your conscience but the ballot doesn’t allow it. So who does a good Republican vote for?
My advice: vote for Antonio Villaraigosa, the liberal Latino in the race. If you really support the Republican party, you’ll vote for Tony, even though this seems strange. Why? Because if you give your support to Tony, and he fails, it clears the way for a (real, intelligent, sane) Republican to run four years from now. If he succeeds and LA is a better place in four years, well then you’ll be livining in a better city. Either way, you win.
A vote for the phony “Republicanism” of Jimi Hahn is a vote for more City Hall corruption, more of your tax dollars spent on government goodies for his donors, and a city that will continue to slide downhill. Just because he’s a white guy in a boring suit does not make him anything close to being a Republican. Don’t be fooled. He will not do anything for you once he gets re-elected, and he will not care. That is, unless you give thousands of dollars for the campaign fund.
So, there you have it. It’s not pretty, but for now it’s what we’ve got. No more caterwauling about how negative the camapign was, no more whining about the guy or gal who didn’t make it. It’s time for us to step up and make a decision about the kind of person we want in the Mayor’s office. Go vote on May 17th, and start holding the winner accountable to their promises on May 18th. Good luck.
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at

Jimi Hahn Says “I May Be A Crook, But At Least I’m White!” or What Would Kenneth Do?

If you want to see what a desperate, sad, and hopeless state Mayor Hahn’s campaign is in, you simply need to look at what he’s doing to try and get re-elected. This Son of Kenneth, this Mayor of One of America’s Largest Cities, this Longtime Politician, so stained with inaction, corruption, a lack of charisma, or leadership, has a new campaign theme. What is it?
Simple. It’s called “I may be a crook, but at least I’m white. Tony’s a Mexican. And we gotta stop the Mexicans from taking over.”
Ok, not literally, but that is more or less the campaign theme. Bill Carrick and Kam Kuwata are smart and literate enough to put it some other way. I’m sure after Carrick’s presidential candidate, Dick Gephardt, saw his career go down in flames, after a torrent of negative campaigning, he and his cohorts have learned from that little disaster. (What is Dickie G. doing now, anyway?)
Now, I’m not a member of the Legions of P.C. that cry “racism” the way the little boy cried “wolf” (as is too often the case these days), but watching the kind of campaign Hahn is running, and watching how easily people are falling for it, makes you wonder What Would Kenneth Do if he were confronted with someone in public life who can’t say much more than “Vote for Me I’m White.”
Take for example the Mayor’s front-and-center placement of Crank Candidate Walter Moore’s endorsement. Surely your remember this clown – he’s the guy who cared more about the rights of bunnies and birdies instead of property owners. Hahn lost the endorsements of prominent leaders in just about every community there is in Los Angeles – which he derided as bunk.
Yet he was joyous to get Crank Walter Moore’s endorsement to telegraph to Angry White People “Hey, I may be a corrupt, and incompetent steward of your tax dollars, but at least I’m white.”
A quick look at the cranky ex-candidate’s website proves that a) Moore is just another white person afraid of “those people” and b) Hahn is getting his support primarily because of his skin color.
How else to explain Moore’s total abandonment of principle to support his former nemesis? (Memo to Moore: You keep sending me two copies of your stupid emails all the time – and I don’t want any of them. Stop it.)
Frankly, I’m a bit surprised that any Good Republican would consider voting for Hahn. I mean, I can understand a Republican not wanting to vote for Tony Villaraigosa because of his openly liberal views, but the sad truth is, on most issues Hahn and Villaraigosa are not that far apart. So why vote for Hahn if he’s really no different on 90% of issues than Tony V?
Even the famous Mayor Sam’s Sister City blog, no home to hippie liberalism, has bitten the bullet and supported Villaraigosa to root out the Hahn mess in City Hall. And yet, there’s Mayor Hahn, belatedly picking up semi-right wing causes in an unabashed effort to get the only block left to him – the white people who Don’t Like Mexicans.
I wish I could hold a seance and call upon the spirit of former Supervisor Kenneth Hahn and ask him what he thinks of the kind of campaign his son is running, stooping to race-baiting as the only way left to hold on to power. I’d ask Supervisor Hahn if this is something he’d do himself, or would have done in the turbulent 60s when race relations weren’t so great. What Woud Kenneth Do?
I’d even ask him if he was proud of the constant ethical problems his son has had, or how after years in office, Hahn the Minor has yet to really do much with his career, or his life, besides Get Re-Elected.
In fact, I wish I could force Jimi Hahn to justify his campaign to his father, face-to-face. I’d love to see Jimi try and obfuscate and use the hair-splitting lie to wriggle his way out of the situation. I’d like to see how far he gets with his weasel-ish performance in front of an actual adult, and leader, especially one like his father was. Especially since he invokes his father’s name when more emails are subpoenaed and more US Attorneys and FBI agents are sent to City Hall.
And it’s not like this is the first time he’s done it anyway. Let’s face facts – in 2001, Jimi Hahn invoked the image of Saint Ken to shore up support in the African American community, while at the same time sending under-the-radar messages to same community warning them of the specter of the Rise of the Browns.
At the same time, such a scorched-earth policy is not entirely unexpected. When a candidate is down and out, they tend to get desperate enough to try something, anything, just to hold on, since they are either facing jail time or an unemployable future.
If I was in charge of Hahn’s re-election effort (and I thank God I’m not!!!) I don’t know what I’d do. But I’d have a hard time fanning the flames of hatred just to bleed a handful of votes out of a pack of cranks I a) dislike intensely and b) would hate to see get something out of a new administration should he win.
Mayor Willie Brown, who mismanaged San Francisco into financial ruin during the boom years, and saddled it with massive, permanent financial, and social problems, took a similar right turn when faced with a possible defeat, begging hard-right Republicans to support his re-election.
He ended up having to hand out taxpayer funded goodies and civil service jobs to people a year before the election hated his guts (partially because of his politics, partially because of his skin color). It was a sick, depraved example of the decline of a so-called leader, and helped cement San Francisco’s slide into mediocrity, one Gavin Newsom is desperately trying to rescue it from.
Whatever. The whole thing is disgusting, and I really hope at this point Villaraigosa wins. I don’t know that he’s the best guy for the job, but for now, I am not as much about who will do the best job, as much as I am about seeing a pack of jerks get denied their post-election goodies. Maybe some other jerks will get them, but at least it ain’t gonna be THOSE jerks.
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at

Who Made the LA Mayor’s Race Suck So Much? – A Long Winded Tale of “WTF?”

Loyal readers have probably noticed that I haven’t written a single thing about the Mayor’s race since the election in March. It’s a conscious decision on my part, simply because unlike some other LA-area blogs I could mention, I don’t get a lot of enjoyment out of snark for snark’s sake, nor do I enjoy joining the legions of partisan bloggers who pump out whatever it is they feel is necessary to help Their Guy.
We all know who these people are, so it’s not necessary for me to link to them – I’d rather not give these over-exposed folks more attention than they already get.
In these hyper-abbreviated elections, we usually get to the point where we hear a rehash of the following criticism, which we hear during every election at about this time. They include:
-“The candidates are being all negative. Boo Hoo.”
-“No one is talking about this issue [insert important issue here].”
-“The campaign mailers/TV/websites/whatever are saying things that aren’t 100%” accurate.”
-“Why didn’t [insert name of failed candidate] do better so we could vote for him (be real folks, it’s rarely a “her” when it comes to Southern CA politics).
-“Both candidates suck. I’m not voting. I’m going to show my ‘independence’ by calling for a pox on both houses.” (this is usually followed up with a dose of “See how smart I am and better I am than these two guys?”)
And on and on. You get the idea. If you think about it, isn’t this about where we are during any election cycle? Wasn’t everyone bitching about Kerry and Bush’s campaigns towards the end? They weren’t? Come on.
It’s just more glaring now because the election season for local Los Angeles elections is ridiculously short. Let’s look at the timeline, shall we?
We got hit with a huge election in 2004, followed by: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Sure candidates may have been running during the fall of 2004, but did anyone notice? Did anyone care? No, they didn’t (despite the banner ads).
Not until halfway through January did most campaigns start making a big presence known locally, and by then, well we were just about a month away from the dropping of mail ballots to voters for the March elections. Suddenly, we had a Big Election in front of us, with barely enough time to assimilate the various campaigns and their shenanigans, before the vote hit.
Of course, we had to listen to the usual roster of Self Appointed Prophets of Truth who spent most of their time whining about their lack of coverage, while doing little to get actual votes (and of course they all lost. Big time.) We even had the inevitable “Why isn’t [insert name of total loser here] allowed to attend a debate?” and a lot of soothsayers talking about how “important” debates most people never saw, were.
End of history lesson. Back to the question (and the complaints): who or what is to blame?
In this case, I don’t point fingers at the any one of Usual Suspects of Big Media, Big Biz, Big Labor, Big Politicians or Those Dumb Voters. You can read those analyses elsewhere.
Instead I’d argue something else – the reason the candidates and campaign aren’t living up to some people’s expectations has more to do with the political culture of Southern California and Los Angeles in particular, than anything else. More to the point, the political scene reflects where the voting public actually is than whatever some self-appointed prophet says it is, or thinks it should be.
Take a look at our leading candidates, the ones that got the most votes from a very small pool of voters. One is a longtime politician who has run for years on Daddy’s Name and Record, and has done very little as the incumbent Mayor other than work on that re-election fundraising.
An ethically challenged politico, you’d think he would have been rejected by most politicians and voters – but he wasn’t. When confronted with his record, a surprising number of Actual Voters simply responded by saying “We knew that already. All politicians suck” and voted for him anyway. Even with a message of “I’m my daddy’s kid” and “the other guys suck” – two very thin reasons to vote for anyone – he was able to pull through (but not in first place!)
Our other candidate, the top vote getter, is someone who ran and almost one once already. He projects a nice guy image, looks good on TV, and in general says the things a core group of voters like to hear. But again, this is no revolutionary campaign, nor should we expect any bold changes to the fabric of LA politics should he get elected.
In a city whose political culture is one of disengagement and acceptance of how things are, is it any surprise these two made it so far?
The fact is, who is Mayor of Los Angeles to most people is far less important than who is deciding whether to make a film or tv series in town, or in Canada. Whether that’s true or not is irrelevant – it is what people think and believe and influences how they vote – if at all.
Likewise, in a town dominated by people who either feel they must live here, because they wish to pursue a certain line of work, or that they have to live here because they have no way out, they are far more likely to accept the proposition that Los Angeles has to be a polluted, hot, and traffic-ridden city, with expensive rent and mortgages.
One would think that people would not only be upset at the concept of paying almost $20,000 a year in rent to live in places that don’t’ really warrant it, and ask/scream/demonstrate/riot/whatever for someone t o do something about it.
They don’t. They write the checks every month, and keep on truckin’. If they vote, they vote for the least offensive guy, or the one most likely to help their small piece of turf.
They sit in traffic for over an hour each way to work, and they keep on doing it, day after day. They have fundamentally accepted the way things are, far more than people do in other places. You’d be hard pressed to see New Yorkers just sit idly by when things are going to Hell – look at the recent city elections and see the difference.
Does that mean our citizens in Los Angeles are stupid? Absolutely not. It does mean that people here are more focused on Other Things they consider important, to the point that they’ve accepted the world around them for all its faults, and do not’ think too much that it doesn’t have to be this way.
That’s not an indictment of the people of Los Angeles – instead it is a recognition of where they are, as citizens. If you can’t or won’t acknowledge this sense of status quo, you can’t begin to do anything to change it. No one can expect to overcome it in a short campaign season that doesn’t command the attention of most voters. (And oh, yeah, silver tongued eloquence from an unknown isn’t going to cut it, either. Sorry.)
There’s no magic answer to change the status quo – and you’re certainly not going to find it on a blog (not even this one). But if you’re wondering why it is we have who we have as our choices, look again. One is a dull politico more concerned with political fundraising than doing a good job. The other is a more exciting politico who is also quite concerned about his career.
Both will do what it takes to get elected, and one will win. Neither is going to make any big changes. And for most people, that suits them just fine. Maybe things aren’t great, but for most people who are just treading water, they don’t want the current stirred up too much and risk sinking.
If you want to stir up things, be prepared to find a way to reassure these millions of treaders that they’re not going to drown. The people that figure it out will one day run America’s second largest city. Until then, enjoy your choices. And keep sending me copies of their election mail – it’s fun stuff!
UPDATE: Several LA based blogs have linked to this article, including LA Voice, LA Observed, and Dropping the Gloves, to name a few. We even got a mention at KPCC. Thanks, gang!
UPDATE II:Associated Press did this article, also commenting on the lack of interest in the race which had an oddly familiar ring to it.
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at All Star Guide to the Los Angeles Elections!

Every year I get calls from friends and relatives at election time, asking me to help them make sense of the choices they have at election time. Even after a campaign as high-profile as the last one in 2004, people still find it difficult to discern just which candidate is best for them.
When you’re dealing with as underwhelming a campaign as we’ve had for the last couple of months for the leader of America’s 2nd largest city, well you get more calls. Hence, my guide to the elections this Tuesday.
I have been purposely ducking writing about the election much this past week, partially due to real-life concerns, but partially because, well, it’s all been a bit underwhelming in this rush since January to talk about Big Issues.
People keep asking me who I am voting for, and to be honest I really don’t know – or if I’m even going to vote at all.
There’s been too many disappointments in this race to date, and it makes it hard for me to cast a vote for someone just because they are “not” someone else. Here’s what is keeping me from voting right now. Read it and if you agree or disagree, drop me a line or post a comment…
When I look at the candidacies of the two incumbent City Councilmembers who are running, Bernie Parks, and Antonio Villaraigosa, I see two people who could not be further apart in terms of viability. However, they also both share a dirty secret.
Bernie Parks’ one-man grudge match against Mayor Hahn has about as much chance of winning as one of the fringe candidates at this point. Antonio Villaraigosa’s campaign is definitely in the top 2 and is guaranteed a runoff, but there’s been something underwhelming about his run this time vs. 2001.
I hate to join that chorus, but I’ve been waiting to see the “magic” his staff has been touting to me for a year now, and there is no magic. A competent campaign and a solidly run operation, yes, but the much-promised “epiphany” of The Great Antonio hasn’t happened yet. Well, at least he gets Democrats to vote for him – maybe that’s magic.
But my main problem with the incumbent councilmembers are two unanimous votes that tend to exemplify what’s wrong with City Hall.
One was a vote to give $177,000,000 to billionaire developer Philip Anschutz (the world’s 62nd richest person) to build a hotel near the Convention Center. The other was the unanimous vote to codify the really dumb and expensive idea to muck up the Venice Boardwalk.
The first is another example of how we talk about a sushi-bite issue, like “cops” but don’t talk about anything else. Then when another “issue” comes up we talk about that. No one makes the connection. We somehow can’t come up with the money to pay for the police without more taxes. We agonize and freak out about the “tax vs. no tax” debate.
And yet, the city finds money to give to the 62nd richest man in America for a speculative development that frankly, he oughta bear the burden of himself. It’s hard to see why he needs a government handout when we can’t pay for police. The city won’t make any profit off their money – they just give it away, and don’t even get the benefit of investing $177,000,000 the way a private investor would.
It begs the question: could the City Council have found a way to say, cut, $10 million off of billionaire Anschutz’s government cheese to pay for more cops? Or, if the city is going to go into the hotel business, why not buy $177,000,000 of the proposed development as an investor, and take the alleged profits this genius is going to create, and pay for more cops that way?
The Boardwalk situation here in Venice is an example of why it never pays to talk to City Hall when your Councilmember has come up with a really dumb idea. You can go to the hearing, bring 1000 of your best friends and talk until you are blue in the face.
None of the councilmembers could care. They vote for each others’ projects to ensure, well, that everyone votes for each others projects. Meanwhile, all that noise you hear about open government is just noise.
It was truly sad to see all these assorted Venetians get all worked up about this issue, and try and “lobby” the council during the public comment period. It was a nice effort, but also doomed from the start, because, frankly, most of the councilmembers could give a hoot about what a bunch of hippies that can’t vote for them think.
I realize these are two little issues out of many accomplishments both have on their resumes. Guess what? They’re my issues and they are what’s keeping me from voting for either one right now.
If the grumpy white people in the Valley can get mad about “those people” in the schools, I can be perturbed at wasteful spending and unresponsive goverment. Tha is keeping me from committing to vote for Villaraigosa (Parks was never a serious candidate in my mind) just yet.
Likewise, when I look at the candidacies of three former or current Sacramento legislators, Bob Hertzberg, Richard Alarcon, and (again) Antonio Villaraigosa, a similar situation comes to mind – the incredibly stupid Energy Deregulation bill that was put together at the behest of the private utilities, and screwed California over pretty good.
In the case of Hertzberg and Villaraigosa, both were serving in the Legislature when this turd of a bill was passed with a unanimous vote. Since the mayhem that ensued, enriching Enron and power speculators at the expense of most citizens, I’ve yet to hear one legislator from that vote admit it was stupid idea and apologize, for making an honest mistake.
While the Mayor’s attack ads may not be entirely accurate, implying that Ken Lay was pulling the strings with Bob and Tony, it is accurate to point out that yes, they did support this idea, and yes, California got screwed over to the tune of billions of dollars, by wealthy special interests. Can’t we have anyone take responsibility anymore for their actions?
Which leads me to a particular disappointment with Bob Hertzberg. While he seems like a nice guy and was kind enough to call me up after I wrote an early column talking about his candidacy, we’re now in the final days of the campaign and I can’t really tell what he’s going to do if he gets elected. But more troubling is his constant evasion on his current roster of law clients, many of whom have business before state and local boards, and the seeming intentional vagueness of his proposal to “break up LAUSD.”
I am not naive enough to think a former elected official wouldn’t use their contacts and knowledge to make money once they leave the legislature. But when I read stories like the one that I read in the LA Times, detailing Hertzberg’s flip-flop on why he can’t tell us who pays his bills, I start to get disappointed. For someone who has taken shot after shot at the incumbent’s ethics record, this rings rather hollow.
Even more troubling is his work on behalf of a chain of auto-repair shops sued for fraud. After reading how he used his status on Gov. Doofinator’s “transition team” to try and stop an investigation into the chain’s fraudulent practices, and the Doofinator’s removal of a regulator not favorable to Hertzberg’s client, I really was astonished. It did explain a little bit more of that hugging session the two had in Santa Monica to discuss “the plan” to break up LAUSD (the one we can’t read on paper because it doesn’t exist yet). Put it all together, and it leaves me really disappointed, since I wanted to like the guy (even if his campaign web guys stole my slogan idea).
If he’d just been up front at the beginning as to who pays his bills and let us decide early on what he’s about, instead of playing the Sacramento politico “dodge and weave” rhetoric, I’d have an entirely different opinion of the situation. For me, being up front is way better than concealing until the end.
Sen. Alarcon has talked a good game throughout this race , and in the debates he’s often been one of the best speakers on issues I care about. That said, he hasn’t been able to get much traction for someone who’s been in politics as long as he has. Plus, while he has a nice laundry list of ideas and reforms, there’s nothing particularly new for any of them, and there’s no indication that much would be different, aside from some tweaks to the way city contracts are awarded.
Finally, we have Our Mayor. I’ve said a lot in the past about what I think of the Mayor’s performance, it’s no surprise that I have a hard time pulling a voting lever for this guy. I had hoped that somehow the embattled mayor would seize the movement and say “f–k it” and charge forth with some sort of revitalized campaign, knowing he was in trouble and try something daring.
Yes, I know, I know, wishful thinking. But he’d have been in no worse shape than he is in now, which at this point may mean not making the runoff. The whole situation more or less sums up what the problem has been all along – a person who has neglected to seize the moment from Day One on any major issues, with the results plain as day. Yes, hiring Chief Bratton has been great (beats the heck out of that other guy who was Chief that he tossed out) but you can’ only run on that and Dad’s name for so long.
So at this point I don’t know who to vote for, or whether I should bother to vote at all. Thanks to the continuing follies of the LA County Elections people, I never got my permanent absentee ballot – they claim I’m not registered as one even though  I have registered as one twice – so I’ll head to the polls. That is, unless there’s something good on TV.
But wait! There is a reason to go vote! That’s only if you live in Council District 11, which encompasses all of the West LA communities. A very spirited battle has been waged by three candidates. Of them all I am supporting Bill Rosendahl.
There have been many cheap shots taken at this guy by certain other candidates in this race who will remain nameless, which to me typify what is  wrong with politics these days. More to the point – when I asked all the candidates for their opinions on a hot-button issue in Venice regarding the Boardwalk’s new rules, Bill responded right away, and didn’t duck the issue.
His opponents have yet to return a single email or call of mine with responses to a few simple questions, including one on the Boardwalk issue. Plus, Bill’s not afraid to say what’s on his mind, even if it is not popular. At a Democratic Party debate watch at the Santa Monica Headquarters, Bill was asked to speak about how he felt John Kerry did in the debate, and while he was supporting Kerry, he said that in his opinion he didn’t feel Kerry had done as well as he should have.
That’s a gutsy move when you’re in a room of potential supporters and hard core Dems, to say what you think, and let the chips fall where they may. It beats the bureaucrat mentality some would bring to this job, and it beats business as usual. So if nothing else, I’ll head on over to the rec room and cast my ballot for Bill. My vote for mayor is still up for grabs – candidates, feel free to drop me a line and convince me of their strengths.
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at