Los Angeles Primary Ballot Analysis 2013 – The Rest

userpic=political-signsThis 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.

City Attorney

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 2 pits Mike Eng against John C. Burke. Eng is a former state assemblyman. Neither has a campaign website. Eng has the LA Times endorsement. I’m inclined to go with the Times: Mike Eng.

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.


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.