Los Angeles Primary Ballot Analysis 2013 – Mayor

userpic=voteThe Los Angeles municipal primary election is less than two weeks away. This means that I can’t stick my head in the sand any longer; it is time to crack open that sample ballot and look at the candidates and issues. I invite you to come along for the ride, and chime in where you have an opinion. I’m going to break this into two parts: the first looks at the Mayor election.

Mayor of Los Angeles

The first mayoral election I remember was 1969, when my brother was a strong campaigner for Tom Bradley against Sam Yorty. Bradley lost that election, but came back to win in 1973, after which he served 5 terms as one of the best mayors Los Angeles has had.  Since then, we’ve been slowing going downhill. Richard Riordan was reasonable for his two terms, but James Hahn was horrible (one term), and the current one-two-term mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, is no better. Hopefully we have a candidate for mayor who is truly dedicated to this city and its future, as opposed to their future political life.

This primary election is a contest between four well-funded candidates (Jan Perry, Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel, Kevin James), one scrappy underdog (Emanuel Pleitez), and three unknowns (Addie Miller, Norton Sandler, Yehuda Draiman). Although this is a non-partisan position, Perry, Garcetti, and Greuel are primarily supported by the Democratic party, James is the Republican candidate, and Sandler is the Socialist Workers Party candidate. The others are not promoting strong party affiliations.

Going into the election, I was leaning towards Gruel, for no reason other than I was impressed with her work auditing the city. I didn’t like Perry because she started the campaign advertising and calls early, and had no real impression of Garcetti. I didn’t like James because of his Republican backing, and I felt he was trading off the name recognition of the comedian. Since then, bad things have come out about most of the candidates, the LA Times has endorsed Garcetti, and the Daily News has endorsed Gruel. So let’s start with a cleaner slate and look at each.

Jan Perry is the current council member from District 9 in South Central 9. She’s African-American, and she’s also Jewish. Her endorsements are primarily councilmembers and the predictable organizations. Ones that caught my eye include George Takai, Dick Van Dyke, Lou Gossett Jr, and only one small union. Her summary of issues do not include anything that make me say “no”, but I also don’t see a list of future plans.  The LA Times didn’t endorse her primarily because “her penchant for speaking her mind, no matter the consequences”, which I read as “uppity black woman”; they are basing their endorsement on who they think can be the most successful. The Daily News endorsement primarily constrasts Gruel with Garcetti, saying only of Perry, “the city councilwoman representing the district south of downtown, has brought to the campaign some much-needed blunt talk and an instinct for improving business conditions. City Hall would be better with more elected officials like her.” An LA Times article about Perry sending out mailer criticizing Gruel notes, “Perry is viewed as having a more fiscally conservative record than Greuel or Garcetti, and has a testier relationship with organized labor. Indeed, she underscores not being the favored candidate of the powerful union that represents Department of Water and Power workers and that is the primary funder of an independent pro-Greuel effort that has raised nearly $1.3 million.” The Jewish Journal also had an interesting profile of her. In doing all my research on her, I haven’t found anything that implies bad ties, bad positions, or bad ethics other than bad implications in campaign mailers. My opinion on her has changed, and she’s a definite possibility.

Eric Garcetti got the Times endorsement and has long represented the Hollywood and Silverlake area. Latino and Jewish, he is one of the leading candidates. In terms of other endorsements, he has very strong Democratic party endorsements, very strong union backing (including the teachers union), and strong Hollywood backing. He says good things about growing the city,  and has positions very similar to Perry. The Daily News does not like Garcetti primarily because “the suspicion persists that Garcetti is too nice for the task of running L.A. – too cautious, too easily pushed around, too eager to please the audience in front of him”. He’s had some problems with conflict of interest, and his role in fixing budget problems is in dispute. He’s a possibility, but a bit more troubling.

Wendy Greuel was initially my favorite. She’s a long-time supporter of the San Fernando Valley, and I think she has done great things in her role as City Controller. She’s a UCLA grad, and married to a Jew (but not Jewish herself). In addition to the Daily News, she is endorsed by a lot of major Democratic officials, loads of trade unions (including the DWP unions), and the usual PACs and caucuses. Her issue statements on her website don’t say much, but from what I’ve read, she’s similar to the other candidates. The Times did not endorse her because she has not been as effective as they thought she could be, noting “To some degree she has been an able fiscal watchdog, insisting, for example, that the city build up a prudent reserve fund as council members sought to instead spend down the inadequate reserve to avoid layoffs. But she has failed to fulfill her office’s potential.” Unlike Garcetti and Perry, she opposes the sales tax hike on the city ballot. She’s been accused of delaying public records, of conflicts of interest, and of fuzzy budget math. I don’t think she’d be a bad mayor, but she’s no longer my first choice.

Kevin James is the Republican candidate.  Not on council, white, male, non-Jewish. Endorsements are not listed on his website, but my understanding is that it is the usual Republican establishment, with major Republican anti-Obama doners supporting him from outside the city. Just as much as I don’t like the strong union support of Garcetti and Greuel, I don’t like outside Republican support of James. However, I’ve looked through many of the issue statements on his website, and I don’t have major disagreements with him on issues. The Times endorsement primarily faults James for his lack of experience working with City Hall: “James is at his best when he drops the talk of corruption and zeros in on one major cause of the city’s troubles: the employee contract of 2007. But his prescription is overly simplistic: Change the players. The city has had mayors with too much “outsider” posturing and too little knowledge of how to run the place.”  In other words, they think his ideas are good, but that as a talk-show-host pundit, he won’t have the ability to work with council to get them done. The Daily News is a little more upbeat: “An attorney and former talk-radio host who led AIDS Project Los Angeles, he knows L.A. government and has been the most effective communicator on the stage at this year’s long series of mayoral debates. Although conservative leaders have not rallied around him this time, he deserves a big future in politics if he wants it.” On a quick news skim, I’m not seeing anything bad about the man. Again, the research has shown him to be a possibility.

Emanuel Pleitez has been doing a lot of Internet advertising. No endorsements on his website. He seems to be the technology candidate, going so far as to host hackathons. No surprise, as he’s a tech executive. Latino, Obama supporter, non-Jewish. He’s a citizen leader for the “No Labels” movement. His issue positions are a bit light. The LA Times noted that “Pleitez has made a name for himself in this race but is a long way from being ready to lead a great city. Like James, he relies too much on the argument that his “outsider” status, by itself, would be a cure for City Hall’s ailments. Those who are disappointed in Villaraigosa should remember that he ran as an outsider and had been on the council for only two years when he ran for mayor, and his lack of familiarity with City Hall — his lack of finesse — is part of what doomed his administration.” The Daily News was similar, noting “His time may come.”.  Pleitez was also responsible for filing the ethics complaint on Garcettis conflict of interest. Haven’t seen any major news problems on Pleitez himself.

Addie Miller is an actress, and the front of her campaign page talks about holding a rave. Her web page is disorganized and simply does not present her as a credible candidate. I don’t consider her one. The Daily News doesn’t say much about her. I cannot consider her candidacy.

Norton Sandler has no campaign web page. SmartVoter notes that he is an active and militant socialist. Now I may be an Obama supporter, but I’m no socialist. The Daily News notes that Sandler does not stated how he would implement his ideas. I cannot support the man.

Lastly, Yehuda Draiman is from Northridge, a plus in my book. He has a website, but no endorsements. Draiman is an energy consultant with the Northridge East Neighborhood Council. I think he is just too unknown to be effective. If he seriously wants to be mayor, he should start by running for city council from his valley district. We could use a decent councilman.

So where does this leave me? Right now, after doing this research, I think I’ve in the Jan Perry camp (which surprises me, as I didn’t expect that result — I thought I would end up Garcetti or Greuel). She’s saying the right things, and she is not beholden in a major sense to distasteful donors (teachers union, DWP unions, or the Republican anti-Obama establishment). But that’s only by a small leaning — from what I’ve read, I don’t think any of the front runners (e.g., Garcetti, Greuel, James, Perry) would make a bad mayor. I do think both James and Pleitez could use more experience, and I hope they run for City offices in the future to gain it. I’ll also note this is only the primary. When we get to the June election (which will likely be either {Perry/Garcetti/Greuel} vs {Garcetti/Greuel/Perry} or {Democrat} vs {James}), the choice will be much much harder and the differences between the candidates will become even more pronounced.

Update 3/5/2013: Researching a post today, I discovered that both Perry and James do not support building the Metro subway along the recommended route, under Beverly Hills HS. Beverly Hills already torpedoed one traffic solution, shooting down the Beverly Hills Freeway (Route 2) back in the 1960s and 1970s. They shouldn’t be able to do the same thing with the subway to the sea. This is leading me to change my vote. I still do not think James has the experience, and I’m even more annoyed with Greuel given some of her recent disingenuous mailings. Reluctantly, I think I’m going to have to agree with the Daily Bruin and go for Eric Garcetti.

Gee, this got long. The next post will look at the rest of the ballot.


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