About Me

Based on a career (mis)spent in American politics, I debunk politicos, pundits and spinners, usually with a dose of humor to make it fun.

Email me with news tips, comments, and ideas for disinfo rehab any time!

Artwork and logos by Quellette Design.

© 2003-2007. All Rights Reserved.

The Latest Info

Enter your Email

Powered by FeedBlitz


July 28, 2010

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.

June 9, 2008

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.

March 28, 2008

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 io9.com. (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 Calitics.com 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.

July 27, 2007

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....

May 23, 2006

California Primary Political Mail Archive is Up at GregDewar.com!

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?

May 15, 2005

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 www.schadelmann.com

May 11, 2005

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 www.schadelmann.com

April 28, 2005

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 www.schadelmann.com

April 19, 2005

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 www.schadelmann.com

March 6, 2005

Schadelmann.com 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 www.schadelmann.com

February 14, 2005

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: Salon.com 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 www.schadelmann.com

February 7, 2005

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 www.schadelmann.com

January 18, 2005

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 ChangeLA.com 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 www.schadelmann.com

December 21, 2004

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 journalspace.com, 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 journalspace.com for me for Christmas. Thank you!!!

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

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

Just moments ago, the second in a series of debates between the LA Mayoral candidates ended. Several places will be posting transcripts and rebroadcasts if you're curious to read a blow by blow of the proceedings. Sponsored by the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters, the focus was on "the environment."

Yes, the "issue" of "the environment."

Whenever I hear this "issue" come up, I'm reminded of something a veteran political consultant in Seattle once told me years ago - that "the environment is a place, not an issue." It's something that sounds trite at first, but when you give it some thought, it makes you realize that the paradigm we discuss these "issues" with is often too confining, and too tied to traditional political rhetoric, to allow a real discussion to take place.

It wouldnt' be a patented column by me about a debate without at least one paragraph bitching about the format of these things so if you want to skip this next paragraph or two, go ahead. I won't be offended.

For those of you still with me, is it not amazing that you'd have some of the smartest and most committed people to La Causa De Environment in Los Angeles, asking some very big and detailed questions of our contenders limit everyone to the perfunctory one-minute/30-second/15 second responses they imposed on the process?

It seemed at times they wanted to ask so many big questions of the candidates in such a short time, that at times the debate felt a little rushed. I've got to wonder, why not just focus on say, 3 or 4 "big" wide ranging issues for a debate that's focused on one subject, instead of trying to shoehorn every miscellaneous topic under the sun in an hour and a half?

Any time things got interesting, like when Hahn and Hertzberg finally got a chance to bitch at each other over the issue of state funding (or the lack of it) the moderators had to chime in and be "slaves" to the format. How about this? F**k the format and let them go at it for at least 60 seconds. Would not having one more question about subsection D of the water bill make democracy suffer?

End of format rant. Back to the debate!

There were not a lot of surprises (again) during this debate. Parks had his pre-mixed "up yours Mayor Hahn" comments ready to go (you had to love his sneer as he said that the Mayor had "an answer for everything and a solution for nothing." Great line, Bernie. I bet whoever wrote that for you is really pleased with themself right now. In fact, half the answers given were not really answers to questions ,they were just more spit and piss at the Mayor. Hint to Bernie: we know you despise the Mayor. We got that. But now what?

I was more amused by his ardent insistence he was an environmentalist. I know lots of environmentalists who also find it necessary to pimp for Wal-Mart, a well known responsible steward for the environment. (Have we forgotten his "people will give their left arm for $9/hour" comment a while back?)

As I thought, we got a preview of the Hahn Response to the sniping at him by all of the Sacramento-oriented challengers, taking on the time-old conflict between local government and the Legislature on budget issues to their doorstep. How effective it was today is debatable, but as an argument against the challengers it rings true to voters, regardless of the minute details. Remember how I keep saying that the Legislature isn't winning any awards for brilliance from the public?

Well the Mayor and his crew know this and areclearly trying to turn everyone's laundry list of accomplishments as a Legislator against them. Tonight was the first salvo. How effective this is coming from someone with a checkered record of his own is another thing entirely, but never doubt the effectiveness of a million bucks of bile in the mailbox come February.

Former Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg again pushed his "big idea" agenda, with some success. One got the impression he had a lot to say and was somewhat constrained by the micro-soundbite format, since it seemed that he had a master plan for everything. One of Hertzberg's strengths has been his ability to develop plicy, but it's a weakness in the micro-bite format. How the campaign will find a way to communicate "big" in a "small" format is a challenge for him and his operation.

State Senator Richard Alarcon, who I'd dismissed as lacking steam earlier, came off a lot more thoughtful in many of his answers, so I'd like to take this moment to retract part of what I'd said before. However, he has an expensive campaign consultant and hasn't been raising as much money, so hopefully this will be a shot in the arm for him going into the final few weeks of the campaign (hard to believe it's almost 'over' isn't it?)

Councilmember Antonio Villaraigosa also seemed to do much better this time, more clearly articulating a "One L.A." theme he tried last time (right as he got his ass kicked by Mayor Hahn's race-baiting campaign that basically labeled him a crack-dealing "Mexican"). More than once he emphasized the need to "come together" on issues that affect specific areas of the city, trying to emphasize that a problem in one part of LA is a problem for all.

It was clear this was the beginning of what we're going to hear from Mr. Villaraigosa in the future, as part of an attempt to forge a progressive candidacy once again. Perhaps this time he'll couple it with a couple of right-jabs at anyone who tries to slur him like certain Mayoral candidates did in 2001.

Overall, a nice little bloggable exchange just a few days before Christmas. I urge readers to check out other blogs, such as LA Voice and LA Observed and the various press outlets for other coverage. Until the next one, have a groovy Christmas season and a great New Year!

Side Note: I'm sure there will be folks that will use what I'm about to say to crucify me with the "communist" label, but so what? I found some of the best commentary about the mayoral race came on KPFK from former State Senator Tom Hayden.

Belittle him as a lefty rat all you like, but if you took the time to listen to him you'd realize that he has an interesting take on civic life here in L.A., and frankly cut through the trite BS that the discussion started out with.

I've often found that when you get past the cariacture of the "leftist" moniker the press and conservative pundits hit this guy with and listen to him, he's got a lot to say, and it isn't all about socialism or something. Years ago I had a chance to meet him via a Democratic Party workshop where they'd expected him to spout off some hippie rhetoric about the 1960s.

Instead he really laid it out why the Democratic Party at the time (1989) was not connecting with middle class voters and laid out a very effective vision for us, as young people, to find a way through the mess we were in. It wasn't about socialism - it was about empowering people of all classes.

Right on, Tom!

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

December 2, 2004

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. LAObserved.com 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 www.schadelmann.com

November 30, 2004

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." LAObserved.com 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 www.schadelmann.com

October 26, 2004

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 www.lacity.org 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 www.schadelmann.com

October 20, 2004

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 Schadelmann.com 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 www.schadelmann.com

July 29, 2004

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 ChangeLA.com 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 www.schadelmann.com

March 31, 2004

The First "Free Pass" of Campaign 2005 - Bernie Parks!

There seems to be a tradition now amongst the press to give any potential candidate one "free pass" at the beginning of a campaign season. That is, a nice, safe, polite feature that allows the candidate one shot at some halfway decent press before the onslaught starts (or doesn't start, depending on who it is).

Last week there was this article in the LA Weekly profiling former Police Chief, and current City Councilman Bernie Parks and his potential bid for Mayor of Los Angeles against an increasingly troubled Mayor Hahn.

The piece is well researched in terms of giving us a picture of the daily political life of Councilman Parks, and it certainly brings up some points in his favor. But like any political prospectus this early in the game, its emphasis on some glittering generalities only fuels the false hopes of anyone backing someone like Parks for Mayor, and glosses over some fairly large hurdles in the way of Parks becoming anything but Councilman-for-Life in his safe Council seat.

Many people make note of the fact that in his first run for Council, he raised a lot of money ($500,000) and did well enough in the primary that no runoff was necessary for him that year. That's all well and good until you look at the field - it was Recently Kicked Off the Force Bernie Parks (with the all powerful "name ID" people covet these days) vs. four complete unknowns, with a combined budget equaling what most people spend on lunch at the taco stand for a month. In other words, it was a cakewalk for Parks, who had the overall anger (is that too strong a word?) by people in his district over his firing by Hahn not too long before the election.

Thus, the Parks Prospectus fails one test - a battle-tested political campaign operation. Whenever you start reading about Some Bigwig Politico making his (or her) next Big Move Up, you have to realize that in most cases, people who've served in one particular office for a long period of time usually don't have to do much to get elected, especially if they represent an area of cohesive political thought. Parks hasn't served in his current office a long time, but it's a bit of a stretch to think that he has to do too much to keep his job - he certainly didn't have to do much to get it in the first place.

Up against an experienced campaigner like Mayor Hahn (who has counted master political strategist Kam Kuwata of Venice as one of his top advisors in past races), and other people who've built real political operations over the years, it's hard to see how Councilman Parks can be expected to do well. Even with a base in the African American community (which is not guaranteed to go with him 100% they way they did for others in the past), he will still be pressed to run a hard fought, bitter, and personal campaign. Can Parks stand the heat? That remains to be seen.

However, there's a bigger elephant in the living room this article (and many pundits) fail to discuss or even acknowledge when discussing the prospects of a Parks candidacy - the fact that in the one major, citywide, executive job he had, Parks was a failure - his tenure as Police Chief of Los Angeles. There's no mention of it in the Weekly article, and discussion of the 2005 Mayor's race seems to ignore it altogether.

This I find fascinating. Parks received a vote of no-confidence and a recommendation to remove him as Chief by the Police Commission and the City Council. They didn't do this out of some racist conspiracy theory some would have us believe - they did it because frankly, he was a lousy Chief.

Under his watch murders went up, morale on the force went down, and confidence by Los Angeles residents in the ability of the Chief to effectively run the department was shattered by his zigzags as Chief. TO think that somehow he could run for a citywide office and not have any of this come up is ludicrous. It's as crazy as thinking that President Bush could run for re-election and not speak one word about anything he'd done as President these past four years. (We know that won't happen, right?)

One only has to look at the work current Chief William Bratton has done in the short time he has been on the job to see what a contrast in management style and accomplishments the department had under Parks vs. what we have today. Crime is down, police morale is up, and the public has a renewed sense of confidence in the management of the department.

Chief Bratton is not perfect, nor is anyone. However, there wouldn't be this dramatic a shift in fortunes at the LAPD had Parks' work there been as stellar as he'd have us believe. That is if he even talks about it - although it's hard to conceive of how many  11 x 17 brochures could talk about Parks' executive leadership and fill more than a few inches of copy between them.

I'll be taking a look at the prospectuses (prospectii??) of Sen. Richard Alarcon and other declared candidates as they come out of the woodwork with a similar critical look at their pros and cons.

However, I can say this much - if I'm was a betting man I'd holding back on putting any of those $500 chips on anyone just yet - and I would not put any on Councilman Parks until I saw something that could make a significant change in the realpolitik landscape he faces in 2005.

PS: Tomorrow will mark my official one-year anniversary living in Venice Beach. Strange, it still feels like I just got here....

UPDATE: Mr. Parks now has a campaign website at bernardparks.com - take a look at it and see where you might wanna bet your $50 chips on this race.

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

October 19, 2003

Solidarity and Generic Brand Canned Russian Mackerel

One thing you discover very quickly, especially in my part of town, is that while it is all well and good to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the struggle at the Big Three Grocery Store Chains it makes shopping for groceries a real hassle.

Today I was driving down Lincoln in Santa Monica and thought I'd swing by and honk the ol' horn to show support for La Revolucion, and who should beat me to the punch but Rev. Jesse Jackson - giving a speech in the parking lot no less. So I honked anyway and flashed the "V for Victory" sign and drove off, happy to help, but trying to figure out where the best place to buy some Necessary Items would be on Sunday.

I'm "fortunate" to live within 5 minutes or less from TWO Von's, TWO Albertsons, and TWO Ralph's Groceries. Thus being the bargain shopper that I am if I plan it right I can get my favorite stuff any time I want, even at 2 am if I suddenly have the urge to get something. Why I'd want something at 2am is beyond me but you know what I mean.

Now, however, I'm not patronizing these stores and I have to really think ahead if I want to have something to eat besides tacos from the taco truck around the corner.

So far I've bought some things at Trader Joe's, ventured into a pricey Gelson's and bought a few things there, and bought the rest at the corner store by my house - which drives my price conscious (aka cheap) sensibilities to no end - but at least they have Goya products.

My favorite store to buy things in now has to be the 99 cent store on Lincoln. I'd only been in this store a coupel of times, usually to buy paper products, but when I realized that for some things, especially canned items their stuff couldn't be too bad, I thought I'd try shopping for some items. Boy was it an eye opener.

For buying basic items like canned goods, they're pretty cheap. But what was most interesting was all the weird brands you never see in "mainstream" or even "specialty" grocery stores. Looking for off-name brands of cookies? It's there. South American labeled versions of American candy bars? It's there!

Looking for squeeze bottles of Eazee Cheez ? They got it - and it's cheap! Now, I'd be a little concerned about buying a plastic bottle of neon-orange cheese that's not even refrigerated, much less spelled right, but if you've got a party coming up it's a steal. Just put out the Easy Cheese from Von's out first , then after the first round of drinks make the switch. Your guests won't know the difference!

And when it comes to canned meats...they have the best selection in town. Treet (no SPAM), Mexican Imitation Crab, Deviled Ham in the big can, and my favorite: Generic branded Russian Canned Mackerel!

I never knew that one could get genuine generic branded stuff from Russian, much less get stuff with the Authentic Cyrillic script on it as well. I asked one of the workers if they sold much of this stuff and they said it'd been sitting there "for some time." What that meant, I didn't wanna know but I almost bought a can (hey it was cheap!) just to try it out. Then I didn't.

That's the thing that appealed to me most about this store though - you could get out of there and hardly pay anything at all. I bought a ton of canned beans, many varieties, to make chili with, pasta, milk, and some other assorted goods, and I spent less than $10! Who cared if some of the stuff had weird names, or if the candy bar was from South America? It's cheap!

So the 99 cent store has a new loyal customer, although you wont' see me buying any of that canned mackerel anytime soon.

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

September 21, 2003

And you think the recall for GOVERNOR is bad...

Most people outside of LA County don't realize what kind of political structure we have here. Los Angeles the city of course is the largest city, so large that some outsiders don't realize that their letter to Uncle Bob in Van Nuys or Granada Hills or their crazy friend Mr. Sch�dlemann in Venice is actually being sent to someone living in Los Angeles.

There are a few other cities within Los Angeles County that have substantial populations (Torrance, Redondo/Hermosa/Manhattan Beaches, Long Beach, etc.) The South Bay communities are all nice places to live, and have great beaches and are generally rather quiet, and affluent, or at least doing OK.

But also found spread across the county are countless little burgs, such as Carson, Hawaiian Gardens, South Gate, Lynwood, Bell Gardens, El Monte, Buena Park, and more that most people aren't aware of. They're usually not very well off, and the people living there often do not make a lot of money. Some do fine , but most are ignored by the media, as are their elected officials.

Just about all of these oddly sized little towns were formed through incorporation campaigns to keep these residents (and potentially more) out of the grasp of the public-owned Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Most of these smaller towns became bedroom communities for middle and working class people, and for the most part were quiet towns without a lot going on except regular folks raising families and working hard.

Things have changed, to say the least. Nowadays if you want to find the most corrupt, most despicable, and most flagrant abuses of power, as well as the total disenfranchisement (that's a word, yes?) �of taxpaying residents and citizens, you need look no farther than some of these little towns.

Carson had its mayor on the run for months on tax evasion charges, only recently having been extradited from the Philippines. South Gate, one of the poorest and lousiest places to live in LA County, was a dictatorship under the thumb of Albert Robles and his machine which looted the city treasury.

The mountain of material unearthed by what little LA Times reporting was done is just the tip of the iceberg as far as I'm concerned. Meanwhile the people who can least afford it pay for the personal enrichment of a pack of weasels who were finally ousted earlier this year.

Lynwood is in the throes of a recall campaign all its own. The town, with a per-capita income of only $9500 per year, has councilmembers who are making in excess of $100,000 per year off the city.

The leaders say they "earn every penny." As far as I'm concerned the only way you earn $100,000 a year as a councilmember in a place like Lynwood is to either a) be a corrupt liar or b) legitimately earn the money for not only recruiting businesses to locate to Lynwood but also have a guaranteed job for every able-bodied and able-minded individual in Lynwood. Guess which route the councilmembers took?

Are we righteously indignant yet? No? Oh well then read the (kind of) fiery righteous editorial from the Los Angeles Times, in its role of Guardian of the Public Interest and Good People Who Know What's Best. They made the usual press call about how evil politics is and how we need a good watchdog to guard against this kind of corruption both here in River City and in Sacramento and Washington.

Here's where we get unplugged, gang. Watch, and learn why the above mentioned editorial is bogus at best and disingenuous at worst (or perhaps those are the same thing?)....

These little corrupt burgs are corrupt for a variety of reasons, some based on the fact that you've had a tremendous demographic shift in these towns towards large populations of people who can't vote, as well as the fact that the jobs that used to fuel the economies of these areas have been exported elsewhere, leaving nothing in its place. Combine that with the fact that it does not take a lot of votes to get elected in most of these places means that you have a localized version of our 130+ candidate governor's race - but with very tangible, and very bad results.

What is galling about the Times editorial though is that it makes the pompous assumption that the press has been doing its job in these cases, and that some how the press is the Pure and Righteous Voice of Reason in the "sin" that is politics. Bullshit. There's no other way to say it.

Fact is that over the years the little newspapers that covered these issues have been wiped out by corporate media such as the LA Times, Clear Channel, and other corporate chain owned print and broadcast media. They either were put out of business or have been homogenized into nothing more than ad-laden rags which make money off classifieds and

Fact also is that it's not "profitable" on a corporate scale to cover anything but scandal or Bennifer Jlo Affleck or what the parent network is peddling in prime time. �That's why you see so many "local" broadcasts featuring what's being said or done on "Friends", "Survivor," or whatever prime time product the networks is promoting. Fact is, the media does not cover these issues, does not want to, and does not care to.

Fact also also also is that candidates for office spend money to talk about their plans for running for office because no one covers debates or forums where they might be challenged , or have bullshit called on their various claims or statements.

No one even covers Sacramento, our state capital(!) on a regular basis anymore - in particular broadcast media outlets - so it's almost insane to expect them to cover anything local to home other than car chases or celebrity restaurant sightings.

NONE of the broadcast outlets in ANY major media markets even maintain a Sacramento bureau anymore - "too costly" - except when there's a "budget crisis." They NEVER cover WHY we got there or give any historical perspective on the situation, just the latest soundbite or simplistic reasoning courtesy of a cadre of partisan pundits who are reliable in their ability to get the "talking points of the day" out to a press who lives off "excitement" rather than "fair and balanced reporting." (Oh wait Murdoch copyrighted that, didn't he? Perhaps he and the RIAA will sue me this month...)

Where am I going with this?

Point is this: The press needs to get off its collective arse, and stop trying to rewrite old stories with new names. They need to get out there and INVESTIGATE what the heck is up with our political system. Do the work. Spend the money. Do their jobvs to find out the truth, not simply validate a pre-determined notion of what is "true." Acknowledge their own bias and work around it, instead of denying it. And not just the potential "Woodward-esque" pieces but the so-called "boring" subjects (which aren't "boring" at all.)

Subjects like the attempts to privatize your water supply. Yes you heard me , PRIVATIZE the water you need to live. The "wet dream" so to speak of right wing ideologues, but trust me, you do NOT want to live in a society where water is up for bid on the open market.

Check out the excellent reporting by Savannah Blackwell at the Bay Guardian to read more. (Yes, I often have issues with the Guardian's coverage of San Francisco politics and their backing of certain politicians but when they do investigative journalism on public power and water privatization, they do it good.)

I digress. To summarize: the press can be as indignant as it wants to be about corruption in politics. But it cannot ignore its own complicity that has allowed our system at all levels to make people sick.

From the national level where the New York Times allowed a complete liar like Jason Blair to advance up the ladder, to the local deal-making corruption and blatant LIES at places like the Heart Corporation, to the wink, nod, and ignorance of the Los Angeles Times, there's plenty of blame to go around. It's time to shape up, kids, and do your jobs. You have the technology, the time and the money to get it right. Now do it.

To paraphrase a great line in "No Man's Land" - to do nothing is taking sides.

And with Mikey Powell and the FCC voting to consolidate media power even more than it is, does it take a genius to figure out what side that is?

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

Fellow Travelers