This is the second post of a two post series looking at the 2013 LA City Primary ballot; the first looked at the Mayoral race. So let’s jump in and get this done with.
This is a four way race between the current attorney, Carmen Trutanich, and three challengers: Noel Weiss, Mike Feuer, and Greg Smith. The LA Times has endorsed Feuer, the Daily News has not yet made an endorsement. Looking at the endorsements on the websites… Trutanich only has a few, notably Riordan, Knabe, Baca, and Zine. Given that he had a lot more in his first campaign, the question arises why he has lost so much support. The answer, most likely, is that he (a) hasn’t done a good job, and (b) broke his promise to be dedicated to this position and not run for another office. All of Weiss’s endorsements are at the individual level. Feuer has loads of endorsements in addition to the LA Times: civic leaders at all levels, the Democratic establishment, unions, public safety organizations. Greg Smith is mostly community and a few retired law officials. If we are looking solely at endorsements, Feuer has the momentum and the majority of support.
The LA Times endorsement summarizes things well. Trutanich has been combative, publicity seeking, and hasn’t handled the budget cuts well. Neither Smith nor Weiss have run effective campaigns. That leaves Feuer, who has been a capable politician and ran Bet Tzedik Legal Services. What is unknown is how well Feuer will maintain an effective city attorney office in the face of certain additional budget cuts. The campaign has gotten nasty, with Trutanich accusing Feuer of being “a “hypocrite” and a “career politician” looking for his next job.” and Feuer saying of Trutanich “of courting Republican voters and said he contributed to “some of the most extreme, right-wing Republicans in America.” “.
[ETA: The Daily News has endorsed Smith. They also strongly dislike Trutanich, noting “Trutanich has pursued policy too often and has clashed with other city officials in less-than constructive ways.” As for Feuer, their argument against him is that “Feuer, with his legislative background, is about making policy, and that Feuer, notwithstanding his experience in public-interest law as one-time director of Bet Legal Services, lacks the courtroom experience to effectively evaluate lawsuits against the city.”. Their hope is for a Feuer vs. Smith runoff, as such a battle would force Feuer to respond to those criticisms. They like Smith because “Smith’s success at representing public employees who suffered retaliation for whistle-blowing (one of whom helped expose the Bell scandal) has given him some creative ideas for modernizing the reporting of official misdeeds.” Perhaps that is why existing officials are not endorsing him. But that doesn’t explain the lack of support from other organizations. There are none — only a few police officers and a number of private individuals. That doesn’t provide a lot of confidence in favor of Smith.]
To me, the choice is easy. I do not believe Trutanich deserves a second term. I don’t believe Smith or Weiss are running serious campaigns. That leaves only Mike Feuer.
There are a bunch of candidates here: Ankur Patel, Ron Galperin, Dennis Zine, Analilia Joya, Jeff Bornstein, and Cary Brazeman. Neither Joya nor Bornstein have websites, so I’m dismissing them straight off. Patel is a novice, does not accept campaign contributions, and has pledged to keep his total expenditures under $1,000. I don’t think he is a credible candidate.
This leaves us with Galperin, Zine, and Brazeman, all of whom have credible websites. Galperin has the endorsement of both the LA Times and the Daily News, as well as many elected leaders, the Democratic party, and unions. Zine has the endorsement of many police and firefighter associations, another bunch of unions, and a lot of city leaders (including the current mayor, the current city attorney, Eric Garcetti, and others). Brazeman has mostly individual and local community support. Based on endorsements alone, I wonder about Zine. Law and order support is great for a city attorney, but what does it have to do with the controller — a fiscal watchdog. I wonder if this is the right position for Zine, whose focus hasn’t been finance.
Looking at the Times and Daily News endorsements are instructive. The Times probably does the best job of dismissing Zine: “Zine argues that the relationships he’s built inside city government would give him a unique ability to turn the recommendations of his audits into action. But while Zine has been a fine advocate for his district, he hasn’t been a prominent critic of the financial practices that have put the city in its current fix. And there’s little in his service on the council to suggest he has the analytical aptitude for improving the bureaucracy. His pursuit of the controller’s job appears to reflect his desire to remain in office rather than a fascination with the nuts and bolts of city operations.” I’d tend to agree with that.
Both Galperin and Brazeman seem much more fiscally ready. The Times notes “Ron Galperin has worked with the city and county governments to improve collections and eliminate loopholes. Cary Brazeman has been a high-profile critic of city managers, mounting pressure campaigns against several flawed city initiatives. Brazeman offers the more far-reaching agenda, but Galperin’s training and experience make him the candidate more likely to turn his recommendations into real improvements in city government.” The Daily News noted that “Galperin has demonstrated his earnestness, intelligence and mastery of detail on fiscal issues as chairman of the city’s Commission on Revenue Efficiency, which has made recommendations on money-saving, revenue generation and collections that the City Council has partially enacted, and president of the city’s Quality and Productivity Commission, which works to improve city services.”
My conclusion, based on experience, is to also support Ron Galperin. I’d like to see more from Brazeman, and I hope he runs for other offices and commissions and gains experience so that in the future he can help the city.
Los Angeles Community College District
In many ways, these boards of trustee positions shouldn’t be on the ballot. Most people don’t know who they are, there is no campaigning, and the job is seen as meaningless. They are there solely to make it easier to turn out someone who is bad. As a result, in these positions, I tend to go with the recommendations of the LA Times.
Seat Nº 4 pits Jozef Essavi against Ernest Moreno. Only Essavi has a website. Moreno is a past Community College president. Essavi has the LA Times endorsement, but this endorsement is lukewarm, at best. Still, given how LACC presidents have let problems go on, I can’t vote for a past LACC president. Reluctantly, Jozef Essavi.
Seat Nº 6 has four candidates: Tom Oliver, Nancy Pearlman, Michael Aldapa, and David Vela. The LA Times has endorsed Oliver. Only Oliver and Pearlman have real websites. Oliver is a past college president, but his issues statement focuses on student improvement. Pearlman doesn’t have that focus, and continues to support the problematic building program. Conclusion: Tom Oliver.
Los Angeles Unified School District
My ballot has no LAUSD positions open. We’re in Tamar Galatzin’s district, and she’s done a good job.
[ETA: Council District 3]
I’m annoyed that this is on the ballot and that Bob Blumenfield is running… and even more annoyed that the Times endorsed him. Why? Because he just ran… and won… to be our state assemblyman. He wasn’t the greatest candidate, but he was better than his opposition. If he wins, then the state/county/city will have the expense of a special election to replace him… all because he didn’t have the confidence to give up his assembly seat before running for city council. I’m sure he’ll make a great councilman, but this is not a great demonstration of his fiscal responsibility. Those in CD3 — remember this!
Measure A: Neighborhood Public Safety and Vital City Services Funding and Accountability Measure
This adds a ½¢ sales tax to support all sorts of city services. A summary can be found here. All four candidates have come out against it, as has the LA Times. Personally, I’m not opposed to revenue, but I think the sales tax in the city is getting too high. The sales tax rate used to support city services should be constant from city to city, as costs should be similar. I can not see a reason why LA needs to be increasing its sales tax; the current funding should be sufficient if expenditures are appropriately controlled. Conclusion: No.
Measure B: Fire and Police Pension Plan; Cost Neutral Purhcases of Retirement Credit by Certain Members.
This is a pension plan adjustment, summarized here. In the current environment, I’m suspicious about pension plan changes as they make me think someone is gaming the system. The proposal allows Department of General Service police personnel to transfer, at their own expense, retirement credit into the Fire and Police Pension Plan if they transfer to the LAPD/LAFD. As it is cost neutral, I’m inclined to support this after all. The Times has not yet come out with a position. My conclusion: Yes.
So that’s it: the rest of the LA City Primary Ballot. As always, I’d love to hear your opinion on candidates and issues.