Category Archives: Los Angeles Politics

Memo to Bernie Parks: You’re Four Years Too Late

It wouldn’t be a race for Mayor in Los Angeles without someone playing the race card to their advantage, and it seems Councilmember Bernie Parks has finally decided to do so. Right on, Bernie! Stick it to the man!
Lagging in the polls with a campaign organization that’s more quaint than effective, he decided to lambaste a Hahn advertisement from 2001 as “racist” at a recent forum, and came to the defense of fellow candidate, Councilmember Antonio Villaraigosa.
For those of you who have safely put out of your minds Campaign 2001, the ad criticized then Assemblyman Antonio Villaraigosa for sending letters out on behalf of a convicted drug dealer, asking for a pardon for the son of a politically connected local donor. Then-Speaker Bob Hertzberg also sent letter on behalf of said convict.
There’s no doubt that if you start talking about someone’s past actions, and that person’s not a white male, and you start making connections between them, drug dealers, and the like, it’s hard not to sound “racist.” But in this case, while I felt the imagery used was rather shocking, and probably not be what I would have chosen to do, I don’t know that it’s necessarily “racist.” To me it’d be racist if the charges were false, at the very least.
After all, then-Assemblyman Villaraigosa did write letters to the Clinton White House on behalf of Carlos Vignali. That’s not a made up charge – it is true. Just like the fact that then-Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg, and a host of other politicians did the same exact thing. (They, however have escaped ads with crack pipes in subsequent campaigns).
Heck, even Cardinal Roger Mahony and Sheriff Lee Baca sent letters in support of the pardon too.
Now, whether that’s relevant or not in a campaign for Mayor is for people to decide. There are probably a number of Angelenos who wouldn’t like the idea of a candidate, of any race, writing letters to President Clinton asking for a pardon of a convicted coke dealer. And there are probably just as many who could have decided to vote for or against Villaraigosa in 2001 for any one of a number of reasons too or could care less.
It’s easy to dismiss this as demagoguery – but then again, perhaps if the Villaraigosa campaign had responded differently to this situation four years ago, we’d be having a referendum on Mayor Villaraigsoa right now, instead of Mayor Hahn. Such is the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, four years after the fact.
In all fairness, it is very easy for outsiders, such as myself, to say that today, in 2005, but there may have been a perfectly logical reason for the way the 2001 campaign effort responded that made sense. Just because it didn’t work in that particular case is no indictment of the competence or integrity of Villaraigosa’s aides. Sometimes even the best plan, and the best message are derailed by things you can’t control.
Parks’ belated outrage demonstrates as much about his lagging standards, as it does for Mayor Hahn. When this controversy erupted in 2001, then Chief Parks was strangely silent on the issue. I searched desperately to find any instance where Chief Parks spoke out against this “racist” ad campaign.
I couldn’t find any.
I also couldn’t find any instances where Police Chief Parks spoke out in favor of asking for pardons for convicted drug dealers, or at least dismissed the idea as “no big deal” as he does here:
“The issue that a person writes a letter of recommendation, we do it all the time (emphasis added)  Parks said. “It is not even an issue that’s worthy of consideration in a campaign in my judgment.”
So it wasn’t an appeal for a pardon, just a “letter of recommendation” as if the guy was applying for an internship with his local Congressman? Hmm. I wonder if this is how Parks felt about the issue in 2001, or if this is a recent evolution of his views on the issue. And what does he mean by “we do it all the time”? Makes me a bit curious, to say the least!
Hearing Bernie Parks’ “outrage” today rings a little hollow. However, I began to realize why he was so quiet on this situation four years ago. Bernie Parks wanted to keep his job. Bernie Parks thought Hahn was going to win. Candidate Villaraigosa had criticized Parks’ performance as Chief during the 2001 campaign. Add it all up and you see why Parks was not about to raise any hackles about Jim Hahn’s 2001 campaign ads, regardless of how “racist” they were or were not.
For all of his thundering denunciations in 2005 of a Hahn campaign ad, at the moment in 2001, when he could have done something about this and made a difference as to who would win the election, Parks was silent.
That to me is as much of an indictment of his conduct four years ago on this “issue” as it is for Mayor Hahn.
PS: had a piece about the campaign four years ago that reminds us of some of the dynamics of the 2001 campaign. What a difference four years makes.
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at

Polls Indicate It’s Time To Change…Election Day in Los Angeles?

Last week the Los Angeles Times published a well publicized poll on the Mayoral race, just a few weeks from Election Day in March.
There wasn’t a lot to be surprised by, aside form the fact that Mayor Hahn’s approval ratings are lower than I’d expected. Mack Reed at did a nice short analysis of the numbers which is worth reading.
But the other story that came to mind for me was that the poll says, without actually saying it, that it’s time to consider moving Los Angeles municipal elections to coincide with the normal June Primary/November Election cycle most other elections abide by.
It may not seem obvious at first, but consider that in the poll, former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg seems to be suffering from a lack of familiarity with voters. Now that’s not to say that they haven’t been trying – Bob’s been in the race for some time now, and he’s made a tremendous effort reaching voters since mid July.
Unfortunately, despite the spin from the campaign, he’s up against the fact that most people don’t know who he is, aside from his former constituents.
For all the hoo-hah about his website, most voters haven’t been looking for it, and the online ad campaigns done so early in the race were nice, but did more to reach the “blogosphere” and insiders than it did voters (Which is fine, but still, it’s only part of the game).
That’s why most of his time has been forced into raising money for TV ads, which started early, and will have to hit voters at the end of this month, along with all the other TV ads the other candidates can purchase in one of America’s most expensive media markets. (Even if you have 2.4 million dollars like Mayor Hahn, you still can’t do a saturation buy in L.A.)
So what? So, the fact is that Hertzberg’s situation is one that comes up not because he’s unpopular, necessarily, but because he’s not well-known to everyone in every corner of the city the way the Mayor, or 2001 candidate Antonio Villaraigosa, is, and he’s got a time/money crunch that makes his job that much harder.
He’s also not unique in the situation either – State Senator Richard Alarcon has even worse numbers, and is known by less people (and he’s less likely to raise the money needed to pay for a big TV buy than Hertzberg is). Bernie Parks is known by lots of people, and, well, maybe that’s why he is where he is.
Now, I’m not suggesting we need to change the election schedule to accommodate ex-legislators and their political ambitions. Far from it. Instead, I’d suggest that it’s time to have local elections match up with regular state elections, not just to save money, but also to have the election conducted when people are more likely to be paying attention.
This is an important election, and yet most people barely get a chance to hear much before they’re asked to fill in the oval for some guy running for mayor.
Whenever you hear someone say we need a “short election cycle” or that “elections take too long” as the patter of some “reform” effort, what they’re really saying is “don’t have elections that last too long so we can protect the people already there.”
I’d argue that in this case, we could go from a hyper-abbreviated cycle that serves no one well, to a normal cycle that would allow more time for everyone to make his or her case to the votes, and boost participation.
Certainly it would be nice to see incumbents sweat it out in a traditional campaign cycle, and allow for some real investigative reporting to develop on each of the candidates. Perhaps we’d even see some more coverage of competitive council races, such as the one being waged in the 11th Council District out here on the Westside.
Other cities have made changes to their local elections to increase interest, with various results. San Francisco, upon adopting district elections for their Board of Supervisors, moved their local elections to coincide with even-year elections in the fall, when more people are likely to vote.
That wasn’t popular with some special interests in town, nor was it necessarily popular with politicians, but it did have the effect of increasing interest in local elections.
Such a change may be difficult in L.A. But if we can think about big issues, like how to make LA a great city to live in, certainly we can also think about technocratic issues, like making election time relevant to Joe and Jane Average Voter.
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at

Mid Game Report: A Less Than Thrilling Campaign for Some Important Jobs

Thanks to the abbreviated election schedule, Los Angeles voters will be going to the polls in a little over a month to vote on who will be the next Mayor, as well as City Attorney and their local City Council member.
Many have billed this as an important election for Los Angeles, and to be sure, it is, given the many challenges we face as Los Angeles residents. However, the campaign thus far has been less than inspiring, which is unfortunate.
The Mayor’s race has had its predictable share of attacks on Mayor Hahn’s integrity – which would seem to be not without some merit, given that an indictment (but not a guilty verdict) has been made in the ongoing Fleishman Hillard billing woes and whatnot we keep reading about.
Despite millions of dollars and the advantage of incumbency, Mayor Hahn remains a weak incumbent. He doesn’t have much of an image with the public, but also is lacking a loyal base (a la Clinton) that will go to bat for him, Hell or high water.
It’s the same kind of place Gray Davis found himself in 2003. He isn’t loved by anyone so when he’s in trouble, he has no one to watch his back in tough times. The only thing Hahn can use is the “public safety” club, and be thankful no movie stars are running against him this time around. His attempts to continue riding on the good name of his father come off as desperate.
Mr. Hahn has been an elected official in his own right for a long time now, and he can’t keep using Dad’s name to try and cover up his problems. We don’t see Councilmember Janice Hahn hiding behind Dad’s name to hide problems – why does the Mayor feel a need to do so if he’s done nothing wrong?
I suppose that what’s been missing so far from this race has been a real “anti-Hahn” to counter the Mayor’s stature and presence. His opponents, while meaning well, have yet to capture anyone’s notice or imagination the way say, a Richard Riordan did in 1993.
In fact, being the anti-Hahn isn’t enough – most people aren’t personally hating the Mayor or blaming him personally for what’s going on in Los Angeles – making the replacement of a lackluster incumbent surprisingly difficult. If you want to be Mayor, you have to stand for something, as much as against it.
Councilmember Bernard Parks’ campaign has fizzled so royally that it’s not even worth it for other candidates to take on Parks and his faux-conservative views – he’s simply not going anywhere, due in large part to his campaign management style. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of how he’d perform as Mayor, but given how things are going for him, I don’t think we’ll need to worry about this any time soon. How far we fall from the free passes some of us got a few months ago.
Bob Hertzberg has run the most stridently anti-Hahn campaign so far, with some entertaining (and very conventional) broadsides against the Mayor. Hertzberg’s campaign has spent a tremendous amount of money and time on the website, which has attracted a lot of attention from bloggers, the media, and web-type folks for its very well-assembled daily news updates, and for being more interactive that most campaign sites. For that it deserves some praise – most candidates aren’t secure enough to allow much dissent on their own websites.
However, it’s unclear how much this has managed to increase name ID for a politician who still remains largely unknown outside of his base in the San Fernando Valley.
He deserves props for trying, but this might be another campaign that used the Internet early (and expensively) to get the word out in hopes of changing “politics” only to find that in fact, politics and how people make their decisions on how to vote (and if to vote) varies from person to person.
More importantly, in a city as big as Los Angeles, it’s harder to gauge how many registered likely voters are really going to be influenced by Blogads and banner ads at the LA Times.
A city such as San Francisco, on the other hand, where the number of registered voters who are not only “online,” but have broadband access, and are known to rely on online services to find out about candidates, and interact with them online, makes the equation significantly different. But that’s there, not here.
For me, the only real disappointment with Hertzberg’s campaign has been the unflinching emphasis on a proposed concept to “break up” the Los Angeles Unified School District. Yes, it’s a great “big idea” to talk about in a policy session, and I’m sure there are arguments for some specific proposal (should one ever be drafted) to do so in the future.
My problem with it is that as it stands, the “proposal” is nothing of the sort – it’s the sort of ambiguous policy “discussion” that allows voters to project what they want such a proposal to be, versus whatever it might end up actually being.
More importantly, there’s a basic law of political physics here – the Mayor does not run the LAUSD. The Mayor can be a bully pulpit, the Mayor can raise money and create PACs and support candidates (i.e. like what Mayor Riordan did) but it’s time to face a certain reality – if Bob Hertzberg gets elected in 2005, in 2009 the LAUSD will still be intact, and will be for some time. So ultimately as a “big thinking” policy goal it gets points for originality, but loses points for relevance.
If Hertzberg wanted to really shake up the system with something that’s outside of the Mayor’s direct jurisdiction, a much more useful discussion would have been the re-organization of Los Angeles County government, which has a Hell of an impact on City government.
How about a breakup of the LA Board of Supervisor’s power into boroughs (similar to what Bob proposed during the Valley secession movement) or at least the democratization of LA County government by breaking up the fiefdoms the Chosen Five have right now.
Think about it – San Francisco County has 750,000 people and 13 neighborhood-elected Supervisors). LA County has almost 10,000,000 people, and has 5 Supervisors elected in districts bigger than some states.
Would such a discussion result in a major re-organization of County government under a Mayor Hertzberg? Maybe not, but the effect would have a lot more resonance than yet another divisive battle over schools, which tends to sound like code words for “us vs. them.” (and we all know who “them” are, don’t we?)
Now, let me be clear: I am sure that Mr. Hertzberg himself would never mean that, and believe him to be sincere in his reasoning for the LAUSD break. That said, I also know how messaging and code words work, and if you’re angling for Republican and Valley voters, well, you have to say certain things to toe the PC line with them.
Oh, but I digress.
The one challenger who seems to get short shrift from folks the most at this point seems to be Antonio Villaraigosa. While Hertzberg has emerged as the most vigorous anti-Hahn voice, Villaraigosa has been quietly racking up the cash on hand and putting together the team and organization that at this point seems to be the best positioned to make it to a runoff with Hahn, thanks in large part to his name ID from his previous race.
Although the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor switched allegiance to Hahn (which is a bit unfortunate), Villaraigosa still has a chance to get the Los Angeles County Democratic Party’s endorsement tonight, meaning support not only from the local Democratic Party, but also support from (what’s left of) the State Democratic Party as well. That could be a counterbalance to the Labor Federation’s endorsement. Or he could miss it by a percentage or two (you need 60% to get the endorsement) and he has to rethink the strategy a bit. We’ll see.
UPDATE 1/19/05: According to today’s  LA Times and the Daily News, the Mayor succeeded in peeling off just enough votes to deny Villaraigosa the 60% needed (although he did not deny him a majority) to get the nod.
Which is unfortunate, but as I’ve said before, never underestimate the Mayor’s ability to deny things to others he can’t get himself. Wonder if a deal was cut with some of the other candidates to deny Antonio that 60%? We’ll see after the runoff begins, won’t we?
UPDATE 2: Also, other local clubs are free to do their own endorsements, and independent expenditures, regardless of what the County does… According to a newsletter from the West LA Democrats, Antonio Villaraigosa did, in fact, get the endorsement of the California Democratic Council, which is the association of Democratic Clubs in LA and statewide. What this means, exactly, is unknown at this time, given the effects of the federalization of local camapign law, but it is interesting that the press neglected to mention this.
One thing to note is that Villaraigosa has been running as the only real Democratic-leaning candidate for this non-partisan position. People tend to forget what was said in previous campaigns – most people don’t keep mail pieces and TV ads from four years ago. I do recall Mayor Hahn sending out some pretty nasty stuff attacking Antonio as a liberal in the mold of “Sen. Barbara Boxer.” (Note to Hahn: last time I looked, Sen. Boxer got a lot of votes in her last race, and she acts like a Democrat when in office. Seems to me that’s not such a bad thing, but I guess I’m wrong, eh Mr. Hahn?)
The only thing I keep wondering is when the big splash is coming with this campaign. Frankly, to win this time around, he can’t run as The One to Beat like he did last time (and lost).
His campaign could use a little jazzing up, a little offbeat personality or unusual moves in the earned media arena that would go beyond the usual attack/counterattack via flack we usually get. We may yet see something like this in the next few weeks, but time is short. The absentee ballots go out soon, gang!
However, the winners of the “Non Issue Campaigns of the Year” award go to…the many City Council races we have this year. You read very little about these races in the paper, which is only natural – since in many races, incumbents who’ve raised a lot of money have no challengers this year.
Neither does City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, but that hasn’t stopped him from raising over a million dollars for his race anyway, leading many to wonder if he’s planning to do something interesting in 2006 or 2008.
The only really spirited race for Councilis right here on the Westside, with former Adelphi executive Bill Rosendahl and community activist Flora Gil-Krisiloff,and Attorney Angela Reddock all running to replace the incumbent. Rosendahl and Gil-Krisiloff have both raised a lot of money, and both seem to be running active campaigns.
Personally, I like Bill Rosendahl, if only because he’s the only one of the three that bothered to respond to my questions regarding the Venice Beach Boardwalk debacle at the City Council with an answer.
Even nicer was the fact that his answer was some stock answer people give to difficult questions – he’d at least thought about the issue and made it clear what he’d have done differently than the incumbent and council staff. Good for you, Bill!
Note to the folks who are still made about the Boardwalk Plan: hiring a lawyer is a waste of time and money. Go work for Bill or Flora, depending on who you think is the best on the issue, and change the laws with your money, time and energy. Don’t waste it on a lawyer who will lose in court!
Ah, but that’s here in Scenic West L.A. If you live in any of the districts with “free ride” incumbents, don’t expect to see them asking you for your vote too much before election day, unless it’s at a fundraiser or something. It’s too bad, since in some cases, these are good, well meaning folks who I don’t mean to lump in with the bad – but at the same time there’s something about “one-candidate-only” elections that just seems strange.
Maybe people aren’t as upset about the state of affairs as the bloglanders and insiders think they are. Perhaps they’re just resigned to accept things as they are and just aren’t in the mood for some wacky “voter revolt” this year.
Then again, at the rate things are going, our whole government will be on auto-pilot thanks to Gov. Doofinator and the folks in the Legislature, so perhaps it’s all for the best. Besides, there’s a sale on Pabst Blue Ribbon somewhere that’ll make all the bad things go away. Right?
PS: I just got an email from Sen. John Kerry asking me to sign a petition to replace Donald Rumsfeld because he’s doing a lousy job in Iraq.
Hey, Sen. Kerry, guess what?
There was a way more effective way to replace this guy – it’s called “Not running a lousy campaign, relying on unreliable 527s, and letting Bob Shrum find new ways to lose to Rove’s thugs, and actually winning the freaking election.”
There’s an even more effective way to replace Rumsfeld. It’s called “Don’t frontload the Democratic primaries, blast anyone who dares speak out against the war with a cannon full of attack ads, get a boring, corporate Democrat who sided with Bush on the war, WMD or no WMD, and found out the hard way that when you help George Bush Jr. out, he comes after you twice as hard – just ask Max Cleland.”
Yeah, I know, I know. Too convoluted, not quippy enough. I shouldn’t say such things. I’m not being a loyal “Democrat.” Blah blah blah.
But you know I’m right.

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

Another Mayoral Debate in Los Angeles OR What If No One Cares?

Tonight we’ll have another one of those oh-so-clever “debates” between the Mayoral contenders. You can watch it on TV locally at KABC or listen to it on KPFK (which features a live iTunes broadcast as well).
Pre-debate commentary can be found at Mack Reed’s LA Voice, and at LA Observed, and elsewhere.
However, I think once again we (“we’ being pundits, bloggers, press folks, political pros, and associated hangers on) are putting way too much on a debate very few people will bother to watch.
After all, we’re days away from Christmas, and I seriously doubt people are stopping their packing, shopping, wrapping, and partying to stop and watch 3 hours of quippy one liners that will end up sounding like a bad imitation of the chatty dialogue of the Gilmore Girls.
We’re also in the shadow of yet another inquiry into Mayor Hahn’s 2001 campaign fundraising. Yet despite this, and the water-torture of bad news for Mayor Hahn, I’m beginning to wonder if anyone will care once they get to the polls.
I’m not a big fan of the Mayor myself – he has let a lot of opportunities to move the city forward with a vision greater than His Re Election pass through his fingers, and while the hiring of Chief Bratton was a good idea, that’s the only one Hahn has had so far.
It’s clear also that something fishy has been going on vis-à-vis the DWP, Fleishman Hillard, and the 2001 campaign apparatus which is smelling really bad, although there is still lots of searching and investigating, with only a handful of cases coming to light so far.
That said, I’m now starting to wonder, especially in light of recent elections, if that’s enough to see the Mayor earn an early retirement in 2005, or if we’ll need more. While there’s plenty of big talk right now about how Mayor Hahn is the AntiChrist to a concerned group of citizens who are supporting their candidates for Mayor, there’s no indication that the great majority of voting Angelenos are as hot and bothered about this as they are.
Again, I’m not defending the Mayor, or his actions – but I am taking a realistic look at the landscape and seeing a much tougher route for any challenger, with or without a snazzy website and/or witty one liners, than even I’d expected.
Now, while I offer a lay of the land, I have some specifics that could help level the playing field, but as a wise person once told me, “Don’t give away intellectual property you intend to market.” In otherwords, no free advice for Mayoral candidates. See the PayPal link or send me an email for current rates.
Let’s take a look at what anyone out there challenging The Man has to fight in order to get Their Candidate elected:
1. Mayor Hahn has lots of money. There’s a benefit to being an incumbent – you can do all sorts of nice things for people and concerned folks and they’ll like you in return. So much that they’ll give you campaign contributions to reward your hard work on their behalf.
Despite all his troubles, the Mayor continues to out-raise his opponents and has been keeping overhead low. He will have more than enough to pay for a huge campaign that papers over his troubles and talks about crime and Chief Bratton. He will have lots of help with this from labor unions and Democratic Party folks. For now they just keep on raising the campaign cash.
Challengers trying to go tit-for-tat on charge and counter charge against someone with way more money is a mistake. Just ask any one of a number of hopeful reformers who’ve challenged The Man.
Although they don’t have a great website up yet it also means they probably won’t be spending money on one until people actually start paying attention to the campaign next month.
2. Mayor Hahn has Kam Kuwata on his side. Anyone who dismisses the role of Kam Kuwata in shaping Hahn’s campaign needs their head examined. Why did the Valley secession campaign lose? Because Kam Kuwata ran the “no” campaign.
Remember how everyone kept carping about how laggard the “no” side was? Remember which side ended up winning? I’ve met Mr. Kuwata before and he’s easily one of the most knowledgeable strategists still working campaigns out there, having been a longtime advisor to Sen. Feinstein and others. And he’s a local, living down the street from me here in Venice, so you know he’s a good guy too.
3. No public polling indicates a large shift in public opinion to “kick the bums out. I don’t know that if I took a poll this Christmas asking LA voters if they think LA is the happiest place on earth I’d get a majority saying “Yes, Most Certainly, Sir!.”
I’m also beginning to wonder, in an era of diminished expectations, if people are more resigned to mediocrity than they were in the past. The fact that this year’s City Council elections are pretty dead, with only token challengers to most incumbents, a few with no challengers, and only one real competitive race out here in Venice, suggests either that people think things are fine, or people are accepting the status quo, like it or not.
No poll I’ve seen (and if you have one that you think says different, please, show it to me) indicates a critical mass of personal anger at the Mayor himself for the way things are. That can change, and I’m sure after a barrage of attacks, it could.
Even after such a barrage, the fact is we only have about two months before the first round of voting, and it’s not clear to me that simply reciting the failures of the Hahn administration over and over again is going to be enough to get him out. More importantly, it’s not clear right now who of the contenders is now shaping up as the “one to beat” for Hahn.
Take a trip in the Wayback Machine to the recent presidential debacle. John Kerry and his media advisor, Bob Shrum, actually invented a new way to blow an election, despite all their “advantages” over an incumbent who was facing problems a lot larger than DWP contracting issues.
He still lost.
In other words, just having a lousy incumbent with problems is no longer enough to give them the boot. If people can give a pass to the President on a war and an economy gone wrong, they’re as likely to do so for our Mayor. Hey, it’s not like the Mayor started any wars or anything, right?
We might see the same thing happen here. If after two months we still have nothing but Mayor Hahn and the Four Guys Who Bitch, eventually the press is going to start taking shots at those who sling barbs at the Mayo, taking them them all down a notch.
Now, this assumes the candidates challenging Hahn will fall for this ruse. I surely don’t think that’s the case. But then again, I’ve also seen campaigns with more money and cleverer folks go down in similar situations. It’s not easy terrain to navigate.
Well there you have it. How Mayor Hahn could win. Anything can happen in two months, and we will certainly have some surprises in store for us, which makes covering the election that much more fun
However, at the same time “we” have to be careful we don’t get caught up in the whirlwind of point and counter point so much that we don’t acknowledge just how hard it is to take out even a bad incumbent in the 21st Century.
PS: I want to take a moment to alert all interested parties that Nancy Rommelmann, formerly of Los Angeles, and the ever popular “Leaving LA” blog at, is back online again, now in rainy (but very cool) Portland, OR. I urge you all to check it out. Ms. Rommelmann was one of the first people to encourage me to keep up with this site, and over a year later, I’m still here!
I also want to take a moment to thank LittleCrow who graciously purchased a year’s worth of pro access here at for me for Christmas. Thank you!!!

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

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

Quick Debate Post Mortem in Los Angeles

As predicted, our “debate” was a great recitation of talking points, lots of zingers aimed at the Mayor. It’s hard to say who scored the best zing of the evening – everyone had some clever way to say “Mayor Hahn Sucks!”
Yay. Mayor Hahn sucks. We know that. Thanks Messrs. Parks, Alarcon, Hertzberg and Villaraigosa. But now what?
Still, it was a little entertaining. But what struck me as odd was the choice of moderators for this debate. Now, I have no problem per se with the fine folks who helped moderate this debate, but I had to wonder why, for example, they had an editor from the Los Angeles Daily News asking questions, instead of say, Rick Orlov, the paper’s City Hall reporter, who is considered one of the most knowledgeable journalists covering City Hall these days.
I also wonder why we have to have TV reporters involved in these things – again, there’s nothing wrong with them, but let’s be frank – when has a television reporter in LA’s local television market ever broken a story that didn’t already appear in print somewhere? How many cover the inner workings of City politics on a daily basis?
But back to the participants. I have to say, for a debate that had so much importance placed on it, I didn’t find the exchange to be particularly useful. Bob Hertzberg got some good digs in on the Mayor, to be sure, and his announcement that he’d sign an order banning road construction crews during rush hour got some applause.
(Note to Hertzberg staff: Howard Stern campaigned on this very issue ten years ago in his campaign for Governor. No, I’m not kidding. Look it up. Maybe you can have Bob appear on Stern’s show after the New Year?)
Hertzberg’s site even offered live, realtime spin during the debate. This way people didn’t have to wait until after the debate to get the spin from the campaign. No word on how the other teams were planning their spin, or to whom, if anyone, would be around to listen.
Overall though, with so little time to get much information out there, we were left with the usual cadence these things produce. In fact, using some buzzwords, a few statistics and taking note of the rhythm these guys speak, you could make up your own 1 minute glib responses. Let’s say someone asked you a question like “What will you do about traffic?” you could say:
“I am committed to fixing our traffic mess witha 5-point plan that gets communities involved in the efforts to find ways to get the stakeholders together to move Los Angeles forward, not backward, in this time of crisis. And I really think Mayor Hahn is a stinker.”
Ok, take out that last line – that’s a joke. But you get the idea. Bla bla bla and whatnot, but not a lot of reasons why these guys are running, what makes them think they’re any better than the guy in office, aside from the fact they don’t like Mayor Hahn and think he’s a stinker. For the Mayor, he had to not choke or flinch when enduring one of the zingers aimed his way, and resist the urge to put Bernie Parks in a chokehold when criticized about crime.
(Memo to Parks staffers: No one in their right mind would want Bernie back in as Chief – you may want to go back to defending Wal-Mart instead of attacking the Mayor on this issue.)
I suppose what surprises me the most about our incumbent Mayor, whom we all love to pick on, is his alarming lack of excitement for someone who seems to engage in all sorts of devious political behavior.
Usually people who act like that, for example Ex-Mayor Willie Brown of San Francisco, have some sort of forceful, in-your-face personality that fills in the gaps created by ethical questions. Mayor Hahn doesn’t so it is hard to see how he’s going to weather countless hit pieces and television ads paid for by the opposition.
One down, more to go. I’m sure most Angelenos are busily paying attention to each development on the campaign trail for Mayor and City Council. Who cares about the holidays anyway?
UPDATE: Today’s LA Times has a short wrap up which is somewhat interesting. So does the Daily News. has a wrap up too.
More interesting are the two large, blaring banner ads for Bob Hertzberg, touting his plan to split up the LA Unified School District into “smaller” districts. It almost overwhelms the reader trying to read the story, but at least they’re aggressively putting out their “spin” to the public as fast as they can. Whether it works or not, we won’t know for some time though.
Oddly enough, I a comment on the Hertz-Blog asking a question about this proposed breakup, but it never made it on the site…must have been a techincal glitch of some sort.
For the record, my question was “How does one break up the LAUSD and ensure we don’t end up with a few wealthy districts and many more poor ones that don’t have the money to serve the needs of students?”
Anyone? Anyone?
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at

Debating Debates or What Does a Debate Really Do for You?

March Primaries offer the electorate one of the worst election timetables possible, especially in Los Angeles. After millions of dollars raised and spent on one of the most expensive national elections in history, we emerge from the detritus of Election 2004 and run smack dab into Thanksgiving, bad weather, and the Christmas/New Year’s/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/(Insert Holiday Here) axis. This conspires to keep any campaign back – who the heck has time to go precinct walk when there’s shopping to be done?
But, yes, Angelenos, there is an election brewing, and what happens now will affect what kinds of choices you’ll have, and what “issues” are “discussed” in the expensive TV ads and direct mail headed your way in February.
By the time most Angelenos get out of the coma of the holidays and finally pay attention in January, we’ll be less than two months away from the first round of voting. That doesn’t leave much time for issues or characters to evolve and develop in any sort of reasonable time frame. But that’s what people want, so now it’s time to take a look at the first “Big Issue” of Campaign 2005: Debating Debates.
You may be confused. Perhaps you thought there was some problem with the number of police officers on the streets of LA, or you’re an anxious businessperson worried about the Byzantine tax code that still needs some work. Or perhaps the scandals you read about have you concerned.
But that’s not as important as….”debates.” has a nice summation of the chatter going on about the first “big” debate of the season.
Mayor Hahn initially ducked this one, but after pressure, first from mayoral contender Bob Hertzberg’s camp, and later from Yet More Bad Publicity over Fleishman Hillard dealings, he decided to participate.
As usual, one of the lesser candidates, in this case self-appointed GOP prophet Walter Moore, has been loudly banging the gong to get himself in to this first debate, with predictable results.
Having run campaigns of all sorts, from underdogs with little money, to front runners with all the benefits of The Establishment on their side, I’ve been on all sides of this mini-tempest before. The problem is, while we have the perennial quibbling about who is “included” and who is “not”, we never ask the question – are debates particularly informative to you, the voter?
Put out of your mind the bipartisan news conference/reality TV show we had in 2004 – it doesn’t count. Instead, let’s look at what your typical local campaign debate is going to end up looking like, with or without the angry loners and ill-funded prophets big year elections tend to attract.
The event will be “sponsored” by some “local” (aka out-of-town corporate owned chapter) media outlet, and some respectable group to give the event some credibility. Rules will be set. The questions will be have lots of big words and compound sentences. Everyone will be given a minute or two to respond, and maybe 30 seconds for quick witted responses.
If someone stumbles and says something stupid, it gets in the paper. If someone gives a long and thoughtful answer, they’re zinged as being “too wordy.” If they are expected to drool oatmeal on their power tie and don’t, they’re declared “the winner.” Unless you attend the event, you won’t see 99.5% of the event at all. And off we go.
Maybe it’s just me, but I find these events tedious and useless to me as a citizen when ascertaining who to vote for. I fail to see how a “debate” elevates discourse, when everyone has to talk in 1 minute/30 second soundbites, no different than the witticisms they’re putting into 11 x 17 one fold mail pieces and 30 second commercials. And yet, these are somehow held out to be something worth fighting over.
Imagine for a moment that instead of quippy one liners and the same boring questions put forth by the same people, we instead had our Mayoral candidates have a conversation. A civilized, respectful conversation about what kind of city they’d like to lead in the next four years, free of prepackaged soundbites and the rhetorical debris of “five point programs” and “promises.”
Imagine a conversation where people would stop spending time trying to score little “wins” with rhetorical barbs, and instead had to talk about what they’d do, and about their opponents, not soley in terms about themselves, but instead about why they have something to offer the voting public, and have to justify what they say not with a briefing book full of dry statistics, but honest answers, even if sometimes that answer is “I don’t know.”
And imagine a voting populace that would take an interest in such a conversation, and judge their prospective leaders not by the tie they wear or the quickness of the repartee, but by their integrity and their commitment to a discussion that was about what is and isn’t possible in Election 2005, instead of simply looking for the one that panders to their self interests the most.
Holding your breath? Don’t. It’s bad for your health.
In the meantime, I’ll be waving pennants and selling popcorn at the next debate. Here’s hoping someone scores a zinger!
PS: As we begin campaign season, inevitably we get the standard who’s working for who story. It makes for a good read though, and gives some idea on what we can expect.
Interestingly enough, a San Francisco-based news site, BeyondChron (a riff on that city’s infamous San Francisco Chronicle offers a more pointed look at the selection of several well known San Franciscans for roles in the Villaraigosa and Parks camps.
Although I don’t agree with the author in every assertion he makes, he does bring up some interesting ideas to think about, and whether you’re predisposed to that line of thinking or not, it’s worth reading. I’ll be posting a seperate column with my take on political consulting and the lack of diversity (perceived and/or real) in that profession later on.

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

What is Up on the Venice Beach Boardwalk??

They’re at it again – the “People Who Know Best” – the folks who know better than you and I how to live our lives – this time in my own backyard here in Venice Beach, California, a part of the great City of Los Angeles.
Although I go to the beach almost daily I hadn’t paid much attention to various petitions and signs regarding proposed ordinances that would over-regulate the assortment of artists, vendors, and oddball displays along the famous Venice Boardwalk. That is, until someone sent me an email over the weekend noting that the new rules would be voted on at the City Council on the 28th.
I’ve taken a look at the proposed changes, and while there is always room for improvement in the conditions of any public space, I don’t see how the new rules are really going to help.
You can read more about the proposed rules in one of the many local papers here and in the LA Times as well.
For views from those opposing the change, you can read this statement from the local Neighborhood Council as well. You know that there’s trouble if even a raucous, and often times loud group like the Venice Neighborhood Council can come together and agree on something important like this.
To better educate myself, I spoke with Sandy Kievman, a representative of my City Councilmember, on the proposed rules. It was an interesting conversation. I politely inquired about the proposed rules and how they’d work, and she was kind enough to give me a rundown of the program as planned.
(Oddly enough, when I asked why the Councilmember and her staff were taking the lead on this issue, she said unequivocally that “we don’t create this kind of thing, we respond” to the requests of the community. But the LA Times story said she was someone “who has helped lead the ordinance effort.” Hmm.)
What became clear is that while there may be some good intentions with the ordinance – the idea being that the area should be reserved for “true artists” and not just people selling “crap” – it’s also becoming clear that there’s really no way for these good intentions to be effectively carried out under the proposed system.
For example, Ms. Kievman made a point of repeating several times that “free speech does not give you the right to run a business or sell things” in asserting why it was necessary to add additional rules and permits to the Boardwalk. The point of the ordinance, she said, was to ensure that artists with City permits would have access to the Boardwalk.
That’s a nice thing to say, but of course, under this system is also not true. “Artists” and others won’t have guaranteed access to the Boardwalk – they’ll have to enter into a lottery to determine if they get to have space or not. That’s a key point, one which can’t be ignored. If something’s being sold to people as “guaranteed” when it is “not,” that’s a problem.
She also indicated that anyone who wanted to “sell things” should be pay ingrent and taxes and operate in a regular store like other stores in the area. But when I asked how the Parks & Rec department would distinguish between an artist, who’s selling their artwork, and a vendor, things got a bit murky.
Also, the definition of “art” was never really answered. Could one make artwork that’s wearable? Would that be allowed under the rules? What is “art” in a society where we commodify everything, including art, speech, and dissent? Who decides? And how does one appeal any decision made? Questions, questions.
You can see where this is going. Good Intentions, meet Road to Hell.
But there’s a bigger problem with the proposal as is – the fact that it is not fiscally responsible. Under this plan people wanting to sell (oops I mean share) their “art” will pay a onetime permit fee of $25 (for now) to have a permit for life to allow them participation in a lottery to determine if they’re going to be allowed on the Boardwalk in a given month.
Let’s assume that 200 people apply for these one time permits. The City of Los Angeles would get a whopping $5000, once, from the people who presumably would be participating over several years. Now let’s assume that for every year, an additional 100 people apply for permits. That means the city would get around $2500 in subsequent years.
Now let’s factor in the staff time to administer this program. Does anyone honestly believe, in an era when we cut budgets every year, that such a small amount of money would even begin to cover the costs of running this bureaucratized system? Raise your hand if you think that a few thousand a year can pay for this proposal. Hmm…I see no hands.
And what happens when we need to axe 30% from the Parks budget in the future, and we need to cut out some of these folks off the payroll? How smoothly will the “system” work then? (If you don’t think we won’t be taking a big piece out of the budget in the future, please, please, put down the pipe for a while!)
More to the point, what guarantee exists that the would not drive up the cost of permits in the future to say, $250? $500? $1000? Tell me with a straight face that the city, in future budget scrambles, won’t see this as Yet Another “Non Tax Revenue Stream” to jack up, after promising they won’t. Don’t believe me? How much are your parking tickets these days? You know, the ones with the $2/ticket tax the State of California levies on tickets now? What, you dont’ remember that Good Intention from the Pete Wilson era? Oh but I digress.
Put simply, the plan is one to make the process so unpredictable, and so difficult for most smalltime folks we find there every day, that they’ll give up and leave. What bothers me the most about these kinds of “rules” is that they don’t seem to be designed for the benefit of those who live here. The Good Intentions get left by the wayside in a program that doesn’t work, and nobody wins in the end.
I don’t pretend to be an expert of all things all the time, but what I do know is that there’s not a lot of reasons to come to Venice Beach, except for the beach, the oddball Boardwalk, and the unusual assortment of shops, artists, vendors and assorted folks by the beach.
People don’t come to Venice Beach to hang out at the Pottery Barn or Barnes and Noble – they can do that in Santa Monica, and frankly Santa Monica does it a hell of a lot better than Venice ever will. At a time when rapid gentrification is quickly making one of the last semi-affordable beach communities another overpriced burg with $3000/month rents, this is the kind of issue that can really stir up a hornet’s nest, and make it harder for other, positive changes, to happen in public policy.
I spoke with City Council Candidate Bill Rosendahl, who actually used to live not far from my place here in Venice, for his thoughts. He was kind enough to send me a short note which I’ll reprint here:
Dear Greg…Jerry Ruben just called me …I suggested he and the group meet with the Councilwomen tomorrow and see if they can continue the item for more discussion … there needs to be more roon for compromise where all sides win…as Venice approaches its 100th anniversary ..harmony among all groups is critical…Cindy has a reputation for finding consensus and I am confident there can be one on this issue…regards Bill Rosendahl

I tried to get a quote from others but they were not available as of press time.
For now, I think it’d be wise if our City Council took a nice deep breath and put this aside for a while. There is no need to rush into this right now – with the winter chill and all the rain out there, it’s not like there’s going to be a lot of folks out there soiling the beach with their presence right now anyway. Instead, let’s get some more creative thinking going on this one, and come up with something a little less Big Brother, and a little more realistic, in its place.
Los Angeles residents can reach their City Councilmember via the city’s website at and let them know what they think of this, or any other issue. Word is that many Venice residents will be traveling to City Hall early in the morning for a demonstration at 8:30am – I’d attend but pressing obligations don’t allow me to do so.
UPDATE: Not much coverage of the vote or the proceedings, but at least we know that the LA City Council voted unanimously to support this brilliant idea.
Watch how fast I support any of these folks in the near future.
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at

The Last Weeks of Political Fun In Los Angeles….

For me, one of the most fun parts of Campaign 2004 has been the explosion of social events revolving around the election. In years past political events were boring affairs, populated by the Usual Suspects, and tailored more towards the people already involved, instead of towards getting new people on board.
Here in Los Angeles, we’ve been treated to a number of groovy events for the cause. Most recently I attended an event hosted by Rock the Vote at the newly famous Esquire House in Hollywood which was entertaining. It was kind of funny to me that so many hipsters were coming to a “political” event. Wasn’t there a time when all of this was “uncool?”
I managed to run in to an old colleague of mine, Steve Barr, who ran RTV in 1992 and now runs Green Dot Public Schools, some of the most successful charter schools in the nation, as well as friends from all over LA. Although I’m not sure exactly what the event accomplished that night, it nice to check out the Esquire House and talk to some folks I hadn’t seen in ages.
Several events are coming up this week that you should check out if you’re in town during the last days of the campaign season. Yet another independent group has been formed to have a say this election – POP PAC, focused exclusively on the “swing state” of Ohio is having a party on Saturday, October 23, from 4-7 p.m.
Featured entertainment at the event will be the Goo Goo Dolls and the comedy/theater group Culture Clash. This should be a really fun event, but word is that space is limited. You can follow this link to buy a ticket – a bargain at a mere $100 – and be sure to tell them that sent you.
If “swing state” politics aren’t your gig, and you’re worried about the future of Medical Marijuana laws in California and around the country, the Medical Marijuana Project is co hosting a joint beneft comedy show on October 24th at the Comedy Store for the MMP, as well as several local service organizations, including Let’s Rap Brothers in Inglewood, and Sister Somayah’s Crescent Alliance Self Help for Sickle Cell.
Many popular comedians are due to appear at this event including Joe Rogan of “Fear Factor” (gotta love those reality shows!), Ngaio Bealum (I used to see this guy perform in SF and he’s hilarious!), Bil Dwyer of “Battlebots” fame, and Charlie Viracola (and most likely more). Best of all the show only costs $20 (although if you feeling like paying more I’m sure they won’t mind). Figure if you went to the Comedy Store anyway, you’d spend at least $20, you can go and support a groovy cause. You can contact Green Therapy for more information.
These are just a few events here in LA – but I’m going to be updating this as more people come out of the woodwork with fun events to attend in these last days of the campaign. Also coming up will be guest blogging live from the frontlines in “swing state” New Mexico in the last week of the campaign. For those of us who are stuck in a solidly Kerry or Bush state, it’ll be a chance to hear a live, firsthand account of what’s really going on in the Southwest!
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at

A Bird’s Eye View of Los Angeles and Seattle…

I’ve finally returned from my two-week work trip to Seattle working with Progressive Majority. The trip was great and I had a wonderful time helping out some great people, and got to see some old friends as well. All in all, a fun and productive trip.
One thing that made the trip enjoyable was my plane ride to and from Seattle. Coming in we were treated to the route that takes you over Elliot Bay, and got a nice view of Seattle’s downtown, with so many new buildings since I left, including the Rem Koolhaas-designed Central Library, the new (and desperately needed) City Hall and the new Seahawks Stadium, among other landmarks.
It’s interesting to note that former Seattle Mayor Paul Schell was maligned by the press and critics based on the WTO protests, at the tail end of his tenure, yet it is largely due to his vision & hard work that Seattle successfully renovated key landmarks such as the Opera House, downtown evolved to what it is today, and neighborhoods saw many tangible improvements made while Seattle still had the resources to do so. History may well recognize his true legacy that partisans and politicians did not during the 2001 election season.
On my way home, I was treated to an incredible, close up view of Mount Rainier on a clear day as I flew out of town – possibly the only time I’ve been been so close to Mount Rainier during the many flights in and out of Seattle I’ve taken over the years. It’s one of those natural landmarks you see every day as you drive around the area, but never really get to see up close unless you’re flying over it, or climbing it, and I do not know when I’d be doing the latter anytime in the near future.
Coming home I also got an incredible survey of Los Angeles as well. As usual, the weather was clear and our plane seemed to fly rather low over every major neighborhood and landmark on the way in to LAX, something I never had a chance to enjoy in past plane trips (as I usually get an aisle exit row seat). It was a nice way to end a long and productive trip, and it felt good to be returning home.
In an era of lower expectations, potholes, high gas and home prices, and whatnot, cynics may deride anyone looking forward to returning to Los Angeles as misguided or deluded. As we flew over the city I realized that despite its many faults, Los Angeles is a great place to be, and can be one of the greatest cities in the world, if people really want it to be such a place. It’s not like there’s a city charter amendment that requires Los Angeles to be a polluted, lousy place to live – and people need to start recognizing that fact if things are going to get any better anytime soon.
That got me to thinking ahead about the things I’d like to do, and I began to figure out that what I really would like to do more than anything else, is live in a great Los Angeles, and get to do all the things I’d like to do (consulting, filmmaking, etc.) right here.
I don’t want to move to Canada or Mexico, or Arizona – right now, I want to live here and do all that I like here, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to. True, there’s tons of problems here, but there are problems everywhere, and frankly when all things are considered, I still prefer the weather and the scene in California, warts and all, to anywhere else. Now it’s time to stop whining and tell the cynics to take a hike, and for people to start doing something instead of just talking.
Seattle is a wonderful place, and I always enjoy the seeing the kind folks I know up there and revisiting old places, so my preference for California is in no way suggesting Seattle is a bad place. In the end, it’s California that’s truly home, and I’m tired of having to settle for a second rate version of what should be the greatest place to live.
Which brought me back to a conversation I had with Bob Hertzberg right before I left town. I’d written about Mr. Hertzberg’s candidacy earlier this year based on my own observations and comments from friends. What I did not know is that apparently Mr. Hertzberg read it and decided to give me a call. Needless to say, I was a bit surprised when I picked up the phone, and there he was, asking me about my concerns as a citizen of LA.
I ended up talking to him for over an hour and everything I’d surmised previously ended up matching up with reality. Rarely do you talk to someone in public life these days who has both the intelligence to understand how government and politics works in the real world, as well as an overall vision they really believe, in this case of an LA That Works, to go with it. I’ve got a fairly well developed “BS Detector” with politicos and it was not going off while talking to him – always a good sign!
I especially liked his concept of “political physics” – that is, the idea that you can use the motivations people and politicians have to achieve big goals if you understand what motivates them, what their needs are, and marshal people and resources to a greater good. Going beyond the transactional politics that too many of our politicians engage in, Hertzberg really seems to know how to match up a vision of the city with the means to get it done.
More importantly, it was clear after spending some time talking to him that he really wants the job to do the job of Mayor, as best he can. This is not a stepping stone to higher office or a pure power play – this is something he wants to do because he likes his city and likes its residents, and thinks they oughta get their money’s worth when they pay for city government. In an era when we’re told to not expect much from our leaders and the cynics keep deriding everything while doing nothing to improve things, it sure was nice to talk to someone who would seem to offer what I really want to see happen – an effort to at least try and make things better so that LA is a place where we can all thrive, not just survive. Go Bob!
Check out Bob’s recently revamped site at and read more about Bob’s plans for a Greater LA.
Also, check out some interesting blog coverage from Mark Sundeen. I’d write about the convention myself but a) I’m not there and b) I don’t have cable (opting for Netfix instead and frankly, no one is showing much coverage. Sure I can watch commentators talk about the convention on PBS, but as for seeing the actual events for myself, it ain’t easy….

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