Top: Candidates Jennerjahn, Dogg, and Rubin conclude a debate
Bottom: Candidates Jennerjahn, Hernandez, Alvarez, Rubin
Though this campaign cycle, until the final week before Tuesday's election, media have used the occasion of the election not to evaluate candidates, but to evaluate the Mayor alone.
When I saw what was happening, I dedicated my own efforts towards reminding voters that the election was not a one-man race.
Here is the Times editorial from over a month ago that said the exercise of interviewing local candidates often "veers towards pointlessness."
Here is Marc Cooper's op-ed on the Mayor's race, published in the Times the Friday before the election, mentioning no rival candidates.
Here is Patt Morrison's, published in the Times over a month ago, in which she called on the Mayor to debate the "measly opposition" without mentioning any challenger candidates by name.
Here's a Steve Lopez column that called for a debate between the Mayor and Walter Moore and mentioning no other candidates. That call came over a month ago.
Here is Earl Ofari Hutchinson's first op-ed, published in the Daily News last weekend, mentioning no rival candidates. And here is his second, mentioning no rival candidates.
And following, here's the final incarnation of mine, unpublished anywhere, which mentions some other candidates vying for the job.
In LA Mayor's Race, Democracy Lost
by JOSEPH MAILANDER
If you live in the city of Los Angeles, sense that you’re worse off now than you were four years ago, and are wondering why, you should talk to some of the people brash enough run for Mayor against The Honorable and formidably bankrolled Antonio Villaraigosa.
“The Mayor is destroying the city,” Phil Jennerjahn says.
“The Mayor sabotaged the School District,” David Hernandez says.
“This guy lies about everything,” Craig X. Rubin says.
Walter Moore’s website includes pie-charts demonstrating that the Mayor finished the 2001 and 2005 primaries with only 30 and 33% of the vote. “And that was before they knew for sure how awful he is,” the website adds.
The Mayor needs to secure 50% of the vote in next Tuesday’s election to avoid the embarrassment of a runoff. Villaraigosa scared off more formidable contenders by amassing a two-million-dollar war chest for his re-electoral bid early on. Then, his consultants scared a job-panicked local print media from paying too much attention to the race by painting the Mayor’s opponents as gadflies, suggesting that merely mentioning their names would be irresponsible.
Neither the Mayor’s office nor the media, with very limited exceptions, have been very interested in serving the broader interest of democracy in this election. But that has done nothing to deter a pack of determined civic activists from trying their luck at forcing a runoff against the Mayor.
All the challengers are well acquainted with the fact that Mayor Villaraigosa benefited in 2005 from a perfect storm of anger at former Mayor James Hahn, and all point to the fact that the Mayor has inspired widespread contempt because of the messy unraveling of his marriage and his inability to deliver meaningful results to the city’s beleaguered and shrinking middle class.
“Hahn caught the Valley’s anger at the failed secession movement, and he caught South LA’s anger at the firing of Bernie Parks,” David Hernandez says. “But this time around, that anger is directed at Villaraigosa himself.”
“There’s anger,” extreme longshot candidate and medical marijuana advocate Pastor Craig X. Rubin said. “Latinos feel like he’s using them.”
That the Mayor is vulnerable in the city’s African-American community comes as no surprise. The firings of local traffic czarina Gloria Jeff and School Superintendent Vice Admiral David Brewer alerted local African Americans to the fact that Villaraigosa possesses no special soft spot for black administrators. And candidate Walter Moore tapped into disenchantment in the black community early last year, supporting a failed petition effort that largely targeted Latino gangs.
But recent grumblings that the Mayor has done little for the city’s diminished middle class demonstrate the Mayor’s vulnerability in other demographics as well.
With Hernandez and Moore courting the Mayor’s significant numbers of disenchanted former supporters, Jennerjahn playing especially to conservative law-and-order types, and activist Zuma Dogg cherry-picking from the city’s vast population of politically disenfranchised, Villaraigosa finds his own most dependable support in a powerful but peculiar double-base.
The Mayor's team especially keeps up contact with Spanish-speaking Latinos, who remain politically content with the fact that one of America’s best known Latinos is Mayor of their city. And it also makes sure that the Mayor devotes special attention to westside Jews, whom Villaraigosa has especially courted throughout his mayoralty with very regular appearances at westside synagogues and even a highly-publicized trip to Israel last year.
Moore appeals to neither of the Mayor’s core groups, even if he shares many slow-growth sentiments with westsiders. "I'm a NIMBY and I'm proud," he often says. He likely leads by a sizeable margin among the challengers, and has even bought tv spots in the campaign's final weeks.
He especially gained notoriety among anti-immigrant groups in 2008 in formulating Jamiel’s Law, named for black teenager Jamiel Shaw, Jr. who was killed early last year allegedly by a non-resident Latino released from jail the day before the killing. The proposed law would ease current restrictions on police when inquiring about a suspect’s citizenship status.
But Moore is also a practicing attorney, possessed of all the attendant personality shortcomings that make attorneys difficult for ordinary people to deal with. He is prickly, arrogant, and unpopular with local media. In a recent debate, when asked with other challengers to say something in Spanish to the people of Los Angeles, he defiantly spoke French. He has also spent much of his money on radio spots that preach to his likeliest choir: conservative AM talk-radio stations owned by Clear Channel—whose billboard division he has occasionally represented in legal disputes.
The Mayor’s campaign team, of course, is populated by some of the top political consultants in the state. Aware of Moore's unpopularity with local media, they were quick to seize the opportunity to discredit all the candidates collectively by using Moore as their sole exemplar.
“We’re not going to debate Walter Moore—we’re not going to debate Lyndon LaRouche either,” Ace Smith, the Mayor’s chief political tactician, told media last month.
In the context of political tactics, it was flawless; but in the context of democratic process, it was an enormous disservice. The media generally acquiesced to Smith’s wishes, and few pressed for a debate either with Moore or including anyone else. Nor did print media give the challengers as much coverage as they devoted to the council race in District 5—the city’s wealthiest, and the one whose citizens the Mayor has courted the most.
The math for any of the top three challengers to make it into a runoff against the Mayor is prohibitive. The top vote getter would likely have to pull a minimum of 17 percent, even while defeating his closest rivals narrowly, for any one of the challengers to find his way into a runoff.
“I’m speaking all the time in South Los Angeles,” Hernandez, of Valley Village, says.
Of the four leading challengers, Hernandez has the most civic experience. Moore is the most rhetorically glib, though Rubin’s rapid-fire delivery—he was once a stand-up comic—is peppered with strong soundbites. Phil Jennerjahn, a conservative and NRA member who wants to make it easier for citizens to acquire concealed weapons permits, is the most purely ideological challenger.
And Dogg, a veteran of the City’s public access channel, fetches the most media exposure, even if some of that exposure is of greater entertainment than political value.
“Hey,” Dogg told me on the steps of City Hall. “If I pull enough votes to force a runoff for another candidate—mission accomplished!”
Because the Mayor has no real plans for LA after his own coronation Tuesday, his chief political consultant has opened an office in San Francisco's pricey but failing financial district.
And if you drill down to where the hoi polloi hang out, the comments regarding the inevitable Newsom-Villaraigosa celebrity cage match in 2010 are telling:
"An empty suit running against an empty head."
"Villaraigosa's record on reducing crime in LA and managing city affairs is stellar. Newsome does not even come close."
"Both of them are corrupt weasels who lack integrity."
"Isn't Villraigosa the dimwit who believes California was stolen from the Mexicans and shouts at rallies that it should be called Aztlan when it reverts to them?"
"I don't know that much about Villraigosa, as I generally avoid LA, but would like to know more. He seems to have made some progress on the major issues facing LA: crime, transport, and the environment."
" I think they should have cocaine snort-off using the stomachs of female TV newscasters to see which is has the greatest core competencies."
This whole state is about to become one big MayorSam comments page.
Excuse me for asking, but---why wouldn't you want to do journalism like this?
Is there any downside at all?
Through it all, the Weekly has kept the real kleptocrats in its sights.
I think that one's a keeper in the sidebar for a while.
If you're young, yobless, and can count to ten with a degree of certainty, now's a great time think about becoming a temp document clerk, paralegal, legal secretary, or even declare yourself as an attorney at law.
Because with all those Latham partners hacking away the below-the-line staff so deeply while skinning nothing off their own hides, nobody's going to be left who knows how to do anything at all. In two weeks, the place will be teeming with temp badges.
Forget what you've read about the prospects of living in a post-newspaper city sometime in the future.
You already are.
If you live in LA outside of the Daily News' distribution range, the day in which you are living in a post-newspaper city is today.
You require no further evidence than the Times' gratuitous mopping up of the Zuma Dogg - Craig Rubin fracas at the eleventh hour of a Mayor's race that never materialized as such.
It is obvious to me that whatever happened, both candidates are feeling a little at loose ends because they have been playing to well-attended event after well-attended event with no LA Times media coverage whatsoever. And they are looking for scapegoats among themselves.
That's what people do when things go badly. They scapegoat.
I've been writing about the lack of coverage the candidates have received for weeks now. My only goal has been to try to invest the challenger candidates with the dignity they deserve as challengers.
Yesterday, in fact, I got a chance to state some of my case for greater coverage for the challenger candidates on Which Way, LA. And even as I was telling the host that the Mayor's race was transpiring in a "cone of silence," Candidate Rubin and Candidate Dogg took their frustrations to an inappropriate level.
I'll not be a hypocrite and pretend some of the candidates don't have their glaring shortcomings. In fact, the one question I asked every candidate I interviewed was an elaborate one in which I hoped to learn how the candidates might respond under a pressure situation such as the nascent moments of a civil disturbance. I thought the question to be responsible media vetting, even as I had seen William F. Buckley ask Ronald Reagan such a question early in the 1980 presidential race, to test his mettle.
For yesterday's fracas, I think both candidates owe the City of Los Angeles an apology. A very contrite apology. As well as to we who have tried to invest them with more dignity than other media have.
But I also think the Los Angeles Times owes the City an apology for suggesting that interviewing these and other candidates "veers towards pointlessness."
Some of us have been pushing hard for more coverage because old media were not only ignoring challenger candidates, but they were treating them as something less than ordinary citizens.
Even Warren Olney yesterday suggested the candidates recalled the days of Eileen Anderson, who wore swimsuits and sang her positions.
But these candidates of 2009 wear suits and ties and generally show up to debates well prepared. Yet the Times and most broadcast media have not even treated our nine challenger candidates with the same dignity they even treated Anderson sixteen years ago.
To my mind, old media need to treat marginal candidates with condescension, because they have to boss someone around. Old media are now too impotent now to bring due diligence to actual people in power.
So forget wondering what it's like to live in a post-newspaper city. As the Times has demonstrated all through this City's election cycle that wasn't, that day has already arrived.
The Young Progressive Majority has produced a fabulous candidate summary for the City of Los Angeles elections next Tuesday. You can access it in pdf format at the site.
The comprehensive guide taught me more than a few things. For instance, I've been in the habit of saying that the Mayor has been to China, Latin America and Israel, but not to Europe. The guide points out that he's been to London, though not to continental Europe.
It could be that youth is no longer being wasted on the young.
With only five days before the Mayoral election, as passions among the challenger candidates intensifies, a source tells us that Mayoral candidate Zuma Dogg was arrested today. There are no further details.
UPDATE: a subsequent report indicates that three police officers at a Mayoral campaign event escorted Dogg away from the forum and to his car, and that no arrest was made.
UPDATE II: Dogg confirms to street-hassle that he was not arrested. LAPD says they have no record of any arrest under the name of Zuma Dogg or David Saltzberg.
I was in a discussion today about the mayoral candidates and reminded about Eileen Anderson, the Mayoral candidate in 1993 who wore a bikini to garner media attention, and who also occasionally burst into song.
I know our Mayoral challenger candidates today don't deserve to be yoked to Eileen Anderson. There are no challengers in this mayor's race remotely comparable to her. Our challengers today show up in suits and ties to debates and they all speak to the City's issues with passion. Some have distinguished military service, some represent formidable business clients, some know all the City's Department heads by sight. And none of them has yet broken out in song while debating other candidates.
And later I did note in an old Rip Rense article something about the 1993 Mayor's race that I hadn't recalled:
Even Eileen Anderson, the singing bikini candidate, bagged a Times op-ed to present her case in the 1993 race.
Yes, a woman in a bikini who occasionally sang her position papers fetched more media traction than today's candidates are permitted.
Rip Rense, who puts his old columns up for perusal, even went so far as to endorse her that year.
We also find in Rense's old Times column---he endorsed her, by the way---that Ms. Anderson, courageous, terminally ill at the time of her candidacy, made a memorable appearance on Bill Rosendahl's old cable show. That's Bill Rosendahl, now the popular westside Councilman.
You just never know in California where the leaders are going to come from.
The Times says: No on Prop B.
The same editorial column that said interviewing Mayoral challenger candidates "veers towards pointlessness" now takes the challengers' position on the solar proposition.
When it admits that it also denied democracy to the citizens of Los Angeles by enveloping the Mayor's race in a cone of silence, then it may even be time to resubscribe.
JM, Goldberg & Bernstein with some commoners, 1.17.08~
The Mayor's planning chief Gail Goldberg wants to take you out of your cars, and also still insists that we have room to grow:
If we are going to continue to grow and prosper, more people are going to come here.... We can accommodate more people, we can't accommodate more cars. And so we have to give people other options. Other cities do this....
Don't you love that we can accommodate more people? LA is already more dense than New York City.
Gail Goldberg, the Mayor's developer-doormat from San Diego, who makes $200,000 a year for dispensing wisdom like this, knew almost nothing about the City of Los Angeles on arrival in 2005. In 2009, she still maintains that growth is inevitable for the City of Los Angeles.
But media continue to ignore the Mayor's race, which despite department head picks like Gail Goldberg is unfolding in a cone of silence. In ignoring the Mayor's race, the media also ignore the awful legacy of the Villaraigosa administration, most notably the way the Mayor gamed key City departments with out-of-towners, to make everyone beholden to him so that he could run the City not like a Mayor at all, but like a syndicate boss.
A week ago, I said that Vahedi and Ritter-Simon would be one-two in this election, in which no candidate is likely to come close to 40 percent let alone 50, and five days out I'm sticking with that. Ritter-Simon's camp has an absentee ballot effort, which may be critical to the outcome, especially if it rains. Vahedi continues to connect to homeowners. The two candidates had the best name recognition at the beginning of the race, and that trend continues.
The Times' endorsement of Galperin has made things more interesting, but if it had been the New York Times rather than the local fishwrap it might have been more meaningful.
Ritter-Simon is staging a media event Saturday at noon at Owen's Market, across from the Museum of Tolerance on Pico. Haven't heard from other offices today.
The most interesting thing about this race has been the way the candidates have not gone too close to Mayor Villaraigosa. Slow growth is the key issue in the district and the voters recognize Villaraigosa as no slow-growth champion. All candidates have been savvy enough to keep their connections to City Hall at arm's length.
The westside blog Blackburn and Sweetzer has covered two candidate fora. Comments at both generally tilt to Vahedi. Bleich is a polarizing figure who seems to be distancing herself from her old boss Jack Weiss. The two detailed summaries may be found here:
UPDATE: Riordan, who never tires of meddling with City politics, endorses Bleich.
This travesty of a Mayor's race, and the media blackout on it until its final days, has certainly demonstrated the latter.
But Kevin digs up the silver lining to the dystopic side of LA in an article at the faux-academy neo-lib petting zoo also known as the Atlantic Monthly.
Similarly, in the Tarot, all sword cards have two edges.
And it's not that there's an up and a down side to a sword; it's that both edges are sharp.
Forty percent. You know when there's a two percent chance it usually rains.
How will all those poor Council District Five people get to the polls when they're stuck on Overland?
Odds on favorites: the two with the best absentee ballot efforts.
A reader writes:
And Joseph, are you just being facetious with this post and attack on Villaraigosa due to his not attending Holy Mass lately? // And the the photo of Tony V with the Israeli flag waving behind him? What are you really trying to say here? // ... And then your bullet point about Mayor Tony spending too much time with the Chinese and Mexicans and not enough with the "more enlightened and civilized" Europeans? // Joseph, I must say that has a slightly ethnocentric ring to it.
Since the reader thinks I might be being facetious, or even too "ethnocentric" because I express cares for Catholics and Europeans as well as for Jews and Latinos, let me be even more direct about what I'm saying:
- The Los Angeles Times denied democracy to the people of Los Angeles by stating that considering candidates other than Antonio Villaraigosa "veers towards pointlessness" and following up with little interest in a Mayoral election.
- Antonio Villaraigosa has not serviced the interest of Jews so much as shamelessly pandered to them. A real friend to a community does not show up to that community on the condition that cameras are rolling and issue press releases later.
- Antonio Villaraigosa declares he is a Catholic, but he has not practiced Catholicism at all during the second half of his mayoralty, nor even declared a pastor, something Americans are typically interested in--though he has lied repeatedly about his marital status.
- Europeans recognize this is a city in decline, which is why they keep sending progressively more junior staffers to consulates here.
- The most glaring indictment of Antonio Villaraigosa and "ethnic" relations occured last year, when our own State Department closed the Foreign Press Office here, formerly servicing the world, and the Mayor moved not one whit to try to save it.
The LA Times this morning threw the bulk of its decreasing local political resources into the race for Council District 5. It asked the candidates what they think about various developments.
Think of that: the candidates for Council in CD 5 are mostly parroting the challenger candidates for Mayor on development issues. Yet the Times is far more interested in what the candidates for a Council District have to say about planning and development than in what challengers or even the Mayor has done in these arenas that most control the very quality of our civic lives.
The future of LA, with ever increasing density, could either end up like Tokyo (optimist) or Sao Paolo (pessimist). The westside could become as traffic-choked as Seoul in a few short years. The City's owner-occupied-to-renter ratio continues its slide towards the renter's side, meaning fewer and fewer opportunities for home ownership for more and more people.
The Mayor appointed an amateur planner from San Diego who took up planning in midlife to handle development issues. (It fit a pattern of key appointments, from Animal Services to Cultural Affairs to Traffic, as the Mayor culled the nation for out-of-towners who would be completely beholden to his office alone.) Now, instead of investigating why the Mayor has willfully brought a dystopic future to Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times solicits position papers from candidates who have even raised less money than Walter Moore on development issues that face the richest one-fifteenth of the City.
There's no mention of the Mayor's race at the Daily News either this morning.
Can't you send in an absentee ballot, kid?
Rick Orlov reports that the Mayor was busy politicking "on Sunday morning." He may be in a position to ask but one question the City's two million Catholics have...
Is the Mayor really a Catholic at all, as his staff claims he is?
The man who has been called "one of the tribe" by Forward and the Jewish Journal's Godblog has not been spotted at a Sunday service in a while, as far as any parishoners can remember. His flacks say he attends two churches, St. Dominick's of Eagle Rock and the Cathedral, but neither can attend his attendance for anything other than a civic event (such as a police funeral) in quite a while.
Stunning many Catholics, no Catholic clergy were invited to offer prayers at his most recent annual prayer breakfast.
Of course, we can all understand how the Mayor might have had a difficult midlife spiritually. He admitted to the Daily News recently that he botched his marriage; less well-known his first public adultery came on the heels of his ex-wife's bout with thyroid cancer. Even as Mayor, he has had trouble telling the truth about why he wasn't wearing a wedding ring when he was separated; "It keeps slipping off my finger," he claimed.
The Mayor's political consultants have bullied Los Angeles media into thinking that OTHER CANDIDATES for Mayor are gadflies. But when you look at the Villaraigosa track record, you might concluded that he may lack both the moral fiber and the intellectual acumen to be Mayor of a City larger than Wasilla:
- He had lower grades in college than almost all the challengers who attended college.
- He had far more trouble with the bar exam than the other attorney in the race.
- He has been beleaguered by lies about his personal life.
- He hasn't dug an inch of tunnel of his "subway to the sea."
- He approves obvious lies about the numbers of potholes filled and trees planted; a million of either would exceed over 18,000 per every square mile of Los Angeles.
- His own staff cannot confirm specific dates of his Catholic Church Sunday mass attendance, though his staff also sends out a press release every time he visits a synagogue.
- He has been to China, Mexico, and Israel as Mayor, but never to Europe, with a far stronger currency and more valuable to trade and tourism than all other places he has visited.
With one week until the Mayor's election, it's not too late for local media to do some real scrutiny into Villaraigosa, rather than listening to him answer questions and nodding along.
Oh, no, where am I? Detail from a super secret map for bewildered Times readers, circa 1995...
A reader has pointed out to me that the Daily News has done a far better job acknowledging the fact that there is indeed a Mayor's race than other media have, and I agree with this.
The Daily News sponsored a candidate forum two weekends ago. While I think this was too little too late to be of any benefit to the challenger candidates (candidate spreads should appear two months before a race, minimum, to be of any potential benefit to the race), the fact that it happened demonstrates that the paper is at least interested to do public interest due diligence on the candidates.
[This latter point is something the Los Angeles Times has catastrophically failed to do in this race, instead sneering that even interviewing them "veers towards pointlessness." It is instead currently pointlessly engaged with something that Thomas Bros. maps have been doing habitually since 1908--mapping city neighborhoods. (If you don't know what LA community you live in, please consult your Thomas Bros. Guide---they list them in colored twenty-four point light blue type with such wonderfully considered placement that that you can even tell what streets form the border of neighborhoods).]
The Daily News also covered MayorSam's and Joe Barrett's Great Debate which I attended yesterday. And while the paper didn't even list yours truly's website's url correctly, it did work in Debbie Lopez's name into its article as one of the panelists.
Also, the reader takes issue with me saying that the kind of coverage print media have brought to the Mayor's race is why they're losing subscribers daily. Well, we have lots of reasons as to why newspapers are losing readers, and I believe trepidation in covering civic matters such as the Mayor's race is an enormous one. However, again, the Times is far more guilty of this than the Daily News.
And the reader finds the suggestions made in the post, that the papers favor Villaraigosa, insulting. I think that's fair, and that the post should have said that the coverage of the race has favored Villaraigosa, and by a very wide margin, especially with all this abstract Sacto flotsam floating our way in the final two weeks of the campaign. The editorial boards themselves in fact may not---I don't know.
Mostly, electronic and print need to learn to work together better. We in electronic media already know the true value (slim) of page views alone. Print people generally know the value of restraint better than electronic media. Dialogs such as these are vital to the survival of both in the future.
Candidates Jennerjahn, Dogg, and Rubin, post-debate yesterday.
There is a Mayoral election in Los Angeles in eight days. The leader on the Los Angeles Daily News this morning is on the State's governors race---in 2010.
The top story at the Times site is on no election at all...it's about slashing state school budgets. Not mentioned is the man the Mayoral challengers insist is most reponsible for destroying the LAUSD, Antonio Villaraigosa.
Also, there is this, ironically, from the Daily News, in a note to readers this morning: "We are committed to producing a relevant local news report that is focused on the San Fernando Valley."
The Daily News and Los Angeles Times has inadequately covered the coming municipal election. They're willfully tilting their coverage towards the state level to ignore the fact that the Mayor's first term has been a catastrophic failure for the City of Los Angeles. They want him re-elected because a couple of key political consultants assured their editors that he was better than the other candidates. They have willfully shut out other candidates from meaningful coverage.
It's not a surprise to us that both papers lose subscribers daily. With front pages like today's, one sees why.
Candidates Moore, Jennerjahn, Dogg, Rubin and Hernandez before the panel.
You can watch all two hours here. My notes are below.
across the street...
I arrive the undisclosed location in Sunland Tujunga at which the event billing itself as "The Great Debate" is taking place. That's me in the reflection on the right---the undisclosed location is in the reflection on the left, and if you look really hard, you can see an undisclosed Joe Barrett, undisclosed producer of this undisclosed debate.
Up the street, moments ago...
I find Sunland Tujunga very congenial this time of year. Their poppies are out before ours. I've carefully cropped any street signs out of the frame, but these poppies are growing on the very same street on which The Great Debate is taking place.
Outside the hall, Hernandez, supposing I am a tourist, poses for a photo for me.
Inside the hall, last candidate to arrive is Phil Jennerjahn.
Cover is blown early on as I take off my shades.
Candidates present are Walter Moore, Phil Jennerjahn, Zuma Dogg, Craig X. Rubin, and David Hernandez. Panelists are street-hassle's Debbie Lopez and LA Weekly's Jill Stewart. The moderator is Ron Kaye, today looking a lot like Gwen Ifill. Notes follow.
In opening statements, Zuma Dogg tells his story of how he came to City Hall three years ago and why he was called to action. He sees City Hall a “racketeering factory.” Mentions W. Edwards Deming as playing an inspirational role to him. Says Dr. Deming’s fourteen points message is getting out, and it’s helpful to address the nearly immeasurable waste in the City.
David Hernandez says that all the candidates are bringing something to the table and should be heard. Sixty years old, born in Lincoln Heights, he moved to San Fernando Valley at an early age and grew up in NoHo. He had Vietnam, Mediterranean, and NATO assignments in military. Says he knows what LA used to be like, and it’s a good point of reference. Learned how to water ski at Hansen Dam. Problems are not going to end on March 3.
Jennerjahn says he wants the job, says he is running for Mayor because he doesn’t share Villaraigosa’s vision. Wants to control borders.
Moore says Mayor gives out “welfare for the rich.” Scolds a “young lady” in the audience when a cellphone shuts down.
Rubin introduces Tera his wife and mentions his seven kids. Looking for desalinization, announces he’s against B. Most important thing for the City is jobs. Wants to protect medical marijuana clubs.
First question is about education, Zuma calls LAUSD a "dropout factory," calls it the most important issue facing the City.
Question comes in regarding billboards. Walter discloses his contributions. A little back and forth with Walter and Zuma over contributions. Walter says he’s been involved with six cases involving billboards. Says Ron Kaye has demonized him. Audience was unaware that Ron Kaye was running for office.
Three challengers speak Spanish, some limited but all without falling back on rote phrases, Hernandez, Jennerjahn and Rubin all do well, Dogg also contributes a little. Walter Moore says a few words in French.
The candidates are bewildered by the positive print coverage for the Mayor. Zuma says he’s glad that a little coverage has broken through.
Everyone loves the people here. Walter wants to preserve a low-rise, low-density lifestyle. Jennerjahn loves the diversity of the cuisine.
Creating affordable housing: Hernandez says the Mayor’s plan pencils out to two million dollars a unit. Phil says the market will work, says it’s not government’s role. Says the premise of the question is wrong. Walter too, and adds “I’m a NIMBY and I’m proud” and later says the Mayor’s plan doesn’t exist. Affordable housing is the biggest racket in the City. Rubin, the issue is that more jobs are needed.
Public safety: Rubin wants to fire Bratton for endorsing Villaraigosa. Hernandez says kidnapping is up, says the Mayor has some explaining for do. Walter says that crimes are down everywhere and it’s like stepping on an escalator and taking credit for the movement. Jennerjahn adds that three strikes has done more for lowering violent crime than anything Villaraigosa has done. Zuma says the statistics are manipulated.
Neighborhood councils. Hernandez says they’re not going away, and the people there have a pulse on their community and they know what’s going on. Walter says we need to enforce the law. Jennerjahn says he wants business not to be interfered with. Zuma says he would like to solicit feedback through Neighborhood Councils, calls himself “the public feedback machine.”
Debate: Walter says the Mayor gave up 700 grand in matching funds so he wouldn’t have to debate me. Zuma says he thinks exposure is good but should be better. Antonio’s not afraid to debate, Jennerjahn says, “he’s not smart, but he’s crafty.” Hernandez points to the Villaraigosa brochure, filled with misrepresentations and props, and says Villaraigosa wouldn’t add legitimacy to the debate. Rubin calls the Mayor a liar, a cheater and a thief.
Noise pollution: Hernandez says let’s take care of our own. Zuma says there are bigger problems. Phil reminds people how much he likes it here. Rubin says there isn’t time or resources, it isn’t something he’s going to jump on right away. Walter says it’s part of urbanity, says he’s going to try to enforce “nuisance laws.”
Illegal immigration: Hernandez feels it’s been a case of selective enforcement. Rubin wants to get rid of the special gang program fundings. Zuma says regardless of any enforcement, Latinos are here to stay. Jennerjahn wants to arrest and deport, because that’s what the law says to do. Walter says the City of LA is illegally aiding and abetting illegal immigration. Says his first act as Mayor would be to revoke Special Order 40.
Closing statements, Rubin says it’s jobs, jobs, jobs and law and order. Walter says don’t vote for Villaraigosa, and to just show up at the polls. Jennerjahn says we don’t need a lawyer, we need a leader, and that he has a history of leadership. Hernandez talks about family and gives a little curriculum vitae, involved with many civic organizations. Zuma says he feels blessed and he’s never been happier.
The debate ends to an enthusiastic chorus of applause.
Probably the best soundbite of the debate is Hernandez’s pointing out the props on the Villaraigosa brochure. Some of Moore's brazen statements also fetch attention.
Higby did a great job with the time cards.
Rick Orlov tries something new to Los Angeles media: covering the Mayor's race by talking to candidates other than the Mayor.
But guess who took the biggest photo and most of the space before the jump.
Still, with nine days to the election, it's refreshing to see some media in town beginning to do what they should have begun to do three months ago.
To watch some of the challengers in action, click here to "The Great Debate".
Worthwhile notes on a history of Oscar set decor at the NYTimes.
Though the show’s look has often swung Rococo-Deco, the first Oscar ceremony, in 1929 in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, was a cozy, festive affair in which guests supped on squab and lobster Eugénie. In 1953, when the show was first broadcast on NBC, Bob Hope wore tails, stars referred to one another as Mr. and Miss, and there was no air-kissing. In that era “most movie stars didn’t appear on TV, so it was a novelty,” the film historian and critic Leonard Maltin said. Only the principal winners were allowed to make speeches — the rest bowed or curtsied and said thank you — and the set consisted of potted bougainvillea, a few Greek columns and a human-scale Oscar, perched on an ersatz wedding cake.
Since then, of course, a gold-encrusted, damn-the-torpedoes visual style has evolved on its own, typically dominated by gargantuan Easter Island Oscars. Among the eras have been Louis Quatorze (1967), Space Odyssey Moderne (2001) and perpetual futuristic spins on picture-palace Deco, including last year’s show, hosted by Jon Stewart, in which towering Oscars were encased in see-through capsules, resembling the orgasmatron in Woody Allen’s 1973 film “Sleeper.”“Everyone involved in the show is highly conscious that it represents Hollywood to the world,” Mr. Maltin said. “So it has to be, in some sense of the word, spectacular.”
For the first time ever, this year the Oscars have hired an architect to design the sets: David Rockwell. He's from New York.
It's all about...me.
If I were a challenger candidate for Mayor, I'd probably stop running against the Mayor right about now, and start running against the fishwrap the Mayor's consultants have successfully bullied into complete submission, the increasingly unpopular Los Angeles Times.
I'd write the Times and tell them what I think about them using the stupid ploy of bickering about neighborhood boundaries to justify avoiding covering the Mayor's race and other races too closely.
[In the middle of a heated civic campaign, with less than two weeks to go before an election, Patt Morrison gets to blow twelve column inches--on where she lives!]
I'd remind whoever I talked to that the Times felt that interviewing challenger candidates "veers towards pointlessness."
I might even remind them that a challenger candidate--to wit, a walking, talking storyline--whom people know and care about is in a better position to garner sincere interest in the newspaper than their own flaccid and insouciant columnists are.
UPDATE: The Times is actually proud of the fact that it diverted so much attention from local politics and elections with its useless mapping project. It celebrates 100,000 page views (net ad value: $1,000 tops, or only enough to by a couplethree decent hats) it should have found simply embarrassing. Via Ed Padgett.
Munich on Idyll.
Wagner's sensual Siegfried Idyll tops a program at UCLALive! tomorrow night at Royce Hall at 8 p.m., performed by Munich's fabled Symphony Orchestra. Written for Cosima Wagner to celebrate the birth of their son Siegfried, the Idyll is also derived from music intended for inclusion in Wagner's opera of the same name.
Also on the program are Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 1 in C major, Anton Webern's string-happy Fünf Sätze, and and Mendelssohn's rollicking Italian Symphony.
As usual, we'll review the concert at LA Opus.
A source close to the Mayor's Office told street-hassle this morning that the Mayor's own support for re-election---thought by analysts to be in the 60s---leads the voter's support of solar Prop B by four points, according to polling data.
David Markland at Metblogs has asked his readers to vote for "anyone but Antonio" in the election March 3.
Its highly unrealistic that any one of these candidates will come close to beating Antonio, but if our incumbent mayor doesn’t receive at least 50% of all votes, we head into a runoff election… a result that might actually deflate Antonio’s ego a bit, and have him actually pay attention to his constituency a little more.
For this to happen, all Angelenos need to do is head to the polls March 3rd and vote for anyone BUT Antonio...
But the Mayor's office has been even trickier than that. Antonio's consultant Ace Smith recently explained to the Times, "We're not going to debate Walter Moore, we're not going to debate Lyndon LaRouche either."
By pretending that Moore is the only formidable Mayoral candidate, Smith has denied democracy to Los Angeles.
Moore has his problems, but he is compounding problems with media coverage of candidates because of his relationship to the registration drive to qualify Special Order 40 on the ballot. When the measure fell short by over 50,000 signatures and Moore's team subsequently blamed the City Clerk, they lost all credibility with local media.
But unfortunately, with Moore dropping off local media radar, all the other candidates in the race did too.
Now we see local media beginning to do the due diligence on the other candidates that they should have done months ago. David Hernandez and Phil Jennerjahn, the two challengers with the most formidable organizations after Moore, have been in the race for months now. As has Zuma Dogg, who fetches some media attention all on his own.
When the LA Times editorial board recently declared that interviewing other candidates "veers towards pointlessness", they did an enormous disservice to the Democratic process in Los Angeles. That other media have followed their lead has been equally shameful.
LAUSD board president Monica Garcia, who worked for Huizar when he was president of the Board and also on his Council campaign, is the protege of the Councilmember from Zacatecas via Berkeley and Princeton. His introduction of the matter to a City of LA committee, rather than hers to the Board, is evidence of concern on the Board that Garcia too thinks this is a good idea but knows she can't get it done at the Board level.
An L.A. City Council committee is considering a motion requiring LAUSD students to wear uniforms.
Councilman Jose Huizar introduced a motion on Wednesday calling for school uniforms in all L.A. Unified schools.
Observers of Board meetings have noted a light level of frostiness between Garcia and new Supe Ramon Cortines.
From a transcript of a discussion of a conversation I had with some Times editorial board people in April 2007. On page 6 of transcript.
"Moderator1: What potential catastrophes loom over the governments in L.A. and Sacramento?"
joseph mailander: home values down 30%
Robert Greene: Generational/immigrant split.
brady westwater: Public pensions, public pensions, public pensions - and public employee health benefits
joseph mailander: saudis and koreans stop buying bundles of subprime loans.
It is unseemly to toot your own horn. And these days, when so much in media is in flux, very few of us feel the same kind of respect from people who used to value some of the things we might have had to say at one time or another. Hell, they even used to send appreciative emails every now and then.
Still, things like this do seem worth noting on occasion, if only because nobody else is likely to.
Not sure where this is going, but it's caught some attention in the blogopause. The Times wants to define your neighborhood by specific boundaries. LAist, LA Observed and LA Metblogs have bitten, though the latter two are a little suspicious of the effort.
It's easy to be cynical about any such effort, and I'd add that it's futile. It was easy for colonial powers to draw maps and police accordingly; it's a little more difficult for local administrators to fix someone's life with insistence; and it's nigh impossible for an institution without any police power at all to do so.
Deconstruction is all about words meaning different things to different people, and in the category of words are place names. If we're living in such an era, such an effort as fixing meaning to a place name is doomed to perplex at best and fail at worst.
"Don't write books, make maps," Deleuze said. To most philosophers, that means make your own maps. It also means: don't try to impose what's right for you onto everyone else.
An officer was hit over the head by a protester's sign in Westwood last month, and the Police Union sues the LAPD because their training manual suggests the officer should have worn a helmet in such a situation. Commanders on the scene thought the presence of "hats and bats" might further incite the crowd.
The Daily News interviews the Mayor. A shockwave/flash production, so don't worry if you can't make it work.
And if you made it through 17 minutes and want more Mayor, part two is here.
For a glimpse of other candidates, the blog MayorSam is scheduling a "Great Debate" of its own this Sunday, for broadcast and videostreaming. The debate will take place in a studio setting at an undisclosed location in Sunland Tujunga. Three challenger candidates--David Hernandez, Zuma Dogg, and Walter Moore--have accepted as of this posting.
"Read the editorial page of your local paper. It introduces you to opinion and can be terrifically provocative and perhaps a great motivating force for you to get involved in your community, regardless of your political ideology."
~~--Sarah Jessica Parker, Bazaar, March 2009, p. 380
It would be nice to see some satellite trucks in Sunland Tujunga for the Mayoral debate.
Recommendations to the advance team:
- Disclose the location sooner rather than later; it looks flaky not to disclose the location.
- Invite all local broadcast media.
- Leave an empty chair for Hizzoner, with a conspicuous name tag, so that media can get good clips of that empty chair.
When Steve Lopez starts writing about how nobody knows there's a Mayor's race, people must know; because we all know Steve never gets anything first.
On Monday, the Weekly's Christine Pelisek followed up our post on Walter Moore's billboard company donation with a line of inquiry all her own:
Hats off to the readers: comments here and at other sites about Moore representing billboard companies turned out to be accurate.
Moore tells the L.A. Weekly that the hype about his affiliation with billboard companies is overblown. The Westchester attorney admits that he does represent billboard companies but mostly in disputes with building owners. "An attorney representing a billboard company doesn't necessarily make you Satan!" he says.
Phil Jennerjahn is well organized. He works his campaign downtown as well as on the Westside and makes all the candidate fora. He is about to tap the resources of John McCain's former westside operation, a move that will bring him fifty people to work on the ground.
David Hernandez won't be stumped on any single issue that might come his way. He's fought for various causes in Sacto and in the LAUSD board room.
Zuma Dogg enjoys a widespread fan base who are surprised to find out when he starts rapping issues that they sound like legitimate concerns of the City's vast politically disenfranchised population.
Walter Moore has bumper stickers. Craig X. Rubin has charisma. Carlos Alvarez has street cred with the No on 8 movement.
While none of the Mayor's challengers are threatening to take 50% of the vote invididually, in aggregate they might, especially in the event of a low turnout (estimates on the high end are 20%). Which would force a runoff between the Mayor and the second place vote-getter; a potentially embarrassing situation for an incumbent who has worked hardest in his campaign at convincing media that he has "no opposition."
Media have largely complied, but that appears to be changing, and micromedia is more than happy to help the candidates get their messages out. Today CityWatch puts up video of a recent candidate debate. There will be another one Sunday, sponsored by the political blog MayorSam, and Moore, a target of many of the challengers, has agreed to attend. (The Times board, conversely, didn't even interview all the challengers in person.) But with two weeks to go, the challengers are finding ways to find voters.
Suddenly, there are two weeks to go before the city election. In the Fifth district, which is the only real Council race, we hear that the smart money is on a Vahedi/Ritter-Simon runoff.
The Westside Community News Project has featured both candidates.
David Vahedi, who has been pounding a lot of pavement in lower Westwood, is a slow-growth candidate, which would put him at odds in Council but would be a breath of fresh air in it.
Robyn Ritter Simon, a former journalist, is running as a law and order candidate.
Both candidates are willing to discuss what realtors don't like to say: that the quality of life on the Westside has diminished in the past four years.
EARLIER: The lone crowded field.
Markland at Groundworks Cahuenga
David Markland has recently wrapped up a gig with KNBC and he is a longtime writer for Metblogs. When he first came to Hollywood from Connecticut, he worked on The Usual Suspects; at the time he also studied one of the Pulp Fiction scripts floating around town just prior to the film's release. In these early months of the downtime economy, he's likely to make a break for Hollywood again.
USC's velvet coffin startup Neon Tommy delivers a pure puff piece on behalf of Councilmember Janice Hahn this morning.
What are the most important things Angelenos need to understand about the economic downturn? What resources are there?The most important thing Angelenos need to understand is that, though times are very difficult, there is help out there, and they should never lose hope. Residents can access many of the resources that the city has to offer by dialing 3-1-1. From there, they can be connected to counseling hotlines, foreclosure assistance lines and other services. The city's workforce investment board is a great resource for job training and assistance.
That's the news from Annenberg today.
Nury Martinez, up for an LAUSD school board seat, has had a checkered time on San Fernando City Council.
She's also been accused of lying about her status as "educator" by her opposition for school board. Her opponent Louis Pugliese went to court to fight the ballot designation. The Law once again exhibited itself as an Ass, as the Court decided not to check into the matter of validity of the designation at all, but told the plaintiff that they would need to pay the cost of reprinting the ballots if the allegation were true.
But the Daily News mentioned none of this in endorsing her for School Board today.
Can someone fill us in on Nury Martinez's classroom experience? We're not sure she has any. The Daily News, in fact, reports her background in the following way:
No mention of "educator" in there. What gives?
As well, this is Martinez's turf. She grew up in the Northeast Valley, attended LAUSD schools and graduated from California State University, Northridge. And as a new mother, she has a reason to want to improve public education. True, she's a longtime Valley politico, who worked for Richard Alarcon when he was in the state Senate. But perhaps that will give her the insight and confidence to stand up to officials at LAUSD on behalf of the people.
Ron Kaye quotes the Christopher Commission report on LAPD in slamming the ad Bratton has made for the Mayor.
Because the chief's office is inherently powerful, it is unseemly for the Chief to use that position to influence the political process.
There's also been an awful lot in local media about car chases this month.
Things we used to do.
A Nymph, a Drunken Poet, Mystery, Secrecy...Hymen...
(the goddess, you fool)
Isn't it romantic?...music in the Night... a dream that can be heard...&c.
Musica Angelica stages Purcell's eminently effervescent masque The Fairy-Queen at the Zipper (the Colburn School's venue) on Valentine's Day, Saturday at 8 p.m.
The Zipper is just north of MoCA on Grand. But you know where it is.
Photo of our favorite Atwater mural.
Isn't it Romantic? lyrics courtesy Rodgers and Hart.
You cannot make this up: the LA Press Club's next event is...
[...it's not "How to keep your job in journalism"...hell no! It's...]
"What to do after you leave your job in journalism"
Serial door-shower Jill Stewart moderates.
No question where I stand, eh?
Young, socialist, the Mayoral election's sole gay candidate, and born to undocumented parents, Mayoral candidate Carlos Alvarez, 22, received the kind of education Jose Huizar, Ramon Cortines and Antonio Villaraigosa engineered for him.
"I was bussed long distances through the City since second grade," Alvarez says, who grew up in Leimert Park but graduated from El Camino High School in Woodland Hills. "Getting off a bus at 6:30 p.m. after a twelve-hour school day, it's not exactly an ideal situation."
Posting up at a party HQ on Virgil redolent of oldtime LA Weekly digs, Alvarez sees a surfeit of class distinction, entitlement, and a repressive police department in Mayor Villaraigosa's Los Angeles. "He should have fired Bratton after the May Day disturbance," Alvarez says.
Worker's rights are at the top of Alvarez's agenda. But Villaraigosa's machinations with the School District haven't won the Mayor any favor with Alvarez either. "They were talking about firing teachers--they need to hire teachers," Alvarez insists. "The teachers need more latitude with what they can teach, too. Right now they're too burdened by state-imposed testing."
Alvarez sees himself as a natural complement to Walter Moore in candidate fora. Opposing Moore on many economic issues, he believes that privatization is ruining City services.
"If there's a profit to be taken, that profit will be taken, at someone's expense. We see what privatizing did for disaster relief when we saw the aftermath of Katrina," Alvarez said.
JM, Honestly, now..., 2.12.09
Craig X. Rubin, beyond-longshot candidate for Mayor, blew into Groundwork downtown like a puff of smoke. He had a pocketful of rapid-fire soundbites. "Measure B forces the DWP into a bad business deal, so it will have to be privatized later." Nobody against B has put it so succinctly to date.
That's not the only one. "The Mayor? There's anger out there. Latinos just feel like he's using them." "The guy lies about everything." "Really, crime is down? Ten murders in Compton in ten days. It still feels like a violent region to me."
If the Mayor has been dismissive of his challengers, Rubin is one candidate who returns the favor.
"He's not a leader, he's a follower, chasing more important Democrats around the country. He's not even here enough to influence people."
Craig X. Rubin, a pastor and former comedian who knows staccato dialog, should be writing copy for everyone else in the race. More on Rubin's special relationship to decriminalizing marijuana here.
Here's what local political scientist Raphael Sonnenshein had to say in an op-ed in yesterday's Jewish Journal about the Jewish-friendly wing of the Republican party:
In short, the remnants of the Jewish-friendly wing of the Republican Party are pretty nervous. Those Republicans who have the best chance nationally face an uphill struggle in the party. Take [Florida Governor Charlie] Crist, for instance. Here is what he told The New York Times Magazine: “I do support [stem cell research]. I think it is common sense to pay attention to what is happening in science. My father is a physician, my sister is a physician, and I try to be enlightened on things that might extend and create productive life.”Here is the entire piece, called "America's New Third Party."
JM, Phil in the wings, Little Tokyo, 2.11.09
Interviewed Phil Jennerjahn yesterday. More later, but if Walter Moore crashes and burns, Jennerjahn, a conservative with libertarian leanings, is the likeliest beneficiary in the Mayor's race.
It takes a while to unlearn the junk you were taught in college. Two LA filmmakers, Bill Ferehawk and Dylan Robertson, who make documentaries that are tangential to their old trade, are featured this week at archinect. They've also worked with KCRW's Frances Anderton.
There are a few additions to the blogroll you should know about. I'm linking to some select and especially active neighborhood councils, which are labeled in colors, but also to top neighborhood blogs, a darker shade of gray. Some are political, some are about shopping. A recently added neighborhood blog is Westchester Parents, grumpy homeowners with an edge. They have a good piece on the coming election up. Samples:
As I noted in a previous post, the last four years have been a catastrophe for this city and unfortunately this has been under Villaraigosa’s watch...
Measure B: Absolutely NO, NO, and NO. The city is not forthcoming on the cost of Measure B to ratepayers...
More at the site.
JM, Read all about it, Y'all!, 2.11.09
I've been interviewing challenger candidates for Mayor of late. But most of the Candidates also appeared before the Times editorial board last week, and the former fishwrap of record featured some of what they had to say on civic issues in this morning's fishwrap.
Somehow, they gave the most ink to one of the least known candidates, Craig X. Rubin, who spends a lot of time commenting on the appearances of the other candidates.
Above, noted challenger Zuma Dogg points to the Times piece before a possibly recognizable and appreciably Piranesian ediface downtown.
No, none of the Times own family of newsstands received violation notices, nor did the Downtown News---but the Daily News's sure did.
UPDATE: an editor tells us that Councilmember Greig Smith introduced the City's newsrack ordinance three years ago. This is the way the City treats its fledgling businesses.
Some may be surprised to learn that Architectural Digest published a few essays by John Updike. They are collected here.
It's not just the low end: the appreciably modern but bizarrely monikered furniture company Design Within Reach is exploring ways to appease nervous shareholders, including putting the whole company on the block, the WeHo blog Blackburn and Sweetzer notes.
Money shot in the AP puffer is this:
"Villaraigosa, occasionally thumping the table with his fists for emphasis, scoffed at critics who see him as long on promises and self-promotion and short on results. While Los Angeles traffic remains misery for many, he argued he has made improvements, including with potholes. "One detects a sore spot.
AP politely doesn't ask the Mayor about what he's done for his Latino base.
Worth a peek (but maybe not much more) is the Freakonomics blog at the NYTimes today, where an urban playah currently suffering the indignity of graduate study at UCLA tries to explain parking downtown with his colleagues' six-page rant. The central business districts compared are Phoenix, LA, and San Francisco.
One is surrounded by desert, one by water, and one by freeways. But the intrepid urbanists try to pull some relevancy from the comparison anyway, even as they declare our downtown lifeless.
Somehow the students made what should have been a 1,500 word op-ed into a monster pdf. Read it; you'll laugh.
7th and Fig: good spot for a rice paddy today.
On the rainiest day of the year to-date, our brave Mayor wants to bust his own citizens for using so much damn water.
Gone is all memory of his Sacto days, when he had to contend to powerful interests, like---the California Rice Commission, protector of rice paddies in the Sacto region.
Our state expends 80% of its water on agriculture, and about 10% on domestic consumption. So even if LA, a fraction of a fraction of the domestic component of the State, cut its water use in half, it's making no significant dent in the water supply.
The idea of a State that is purported have water shortage problems supporting water-intensive crops like rice while making its homeowners convert to rock gardens is sheer lunacy, as well as sheer arrogance.
But we who garden, and who drink the stuff--we're only here to be scapegoated by our own Mayor.
Sam Hall Kaplan, the brashly honest architecture, design, and urban critic at Sue Laris's Downtown News, took a push from the publication this past week.
Kaplan wrote most recently for the Downtown News after losing a KCRW gig around the time he dished on Frank Gehry concommittant to a Disney Hall publicity avalanche in fall 2003. His signature column "The City Observed" has made its way through many incarnations on tv, radio, and print.
Everyone these days is telling everyone else that California is broken, and everyone lies about why.
The Daily News editorialized last weekend that the California legislature is broken, but didn't say why. So they blamed the people who have the least power of all in the legislature: Republicans.
The Times noted last week that California now had the worst bond rating of any state, but didn't say why.
The San Jose Mercury News said yesterday that since 2003 California under Schwarzenegger has spent money faster than the rate of inflation.
The Toronto Star says that Prop 13 has broken the state.
What's really wrong? Even Sacto's two top pundits really don't leave much to chew on.
Dan Walters at the Sacto Bee says it's because California spends five times more per prisoner than per public school student.
I don't agree that this is the main problem. While California may have embarked on "the biggest prison project in the history of the world" prison expenditure accounts for 10% of the overall budget. If you were to cut the prison budget entirely, you still wouldn't solve California's fiscal woes.
George Skelton, still repping our former fishwrap of record, is even more off track: "The chief culprit: The Legislature's inability to pass a state budget on time. Frustrated local governments and schools can't plan. Private vendors selling to the state get stiffed. Worst of all, the Capitol politicians ultimately panic, punt the state's fiscal mess into the future and pass a fraudulent budget."
Huh? It would be nice if Skelton could string together a coherent sentence on this, let alone a coherent paragraph. Maybe covering Sacto all these years has finally got to him.
The Prop 13 line is nonsense. Our property values allow the state to more than compensate for our low tax rate.
The prison argument is an easy point to make, but not a primary cause of brokenness.
Blaming the legislature, a bunch of powerless pawns who barely understand a quarter of the issues set before them, is equally up a tree.
No. Here's the main problem. The main problem is the top leadership since the energy crisis of 2000. The main problem has been, in sucession: Gray Davis, Cruz Bustamante, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Fabien Nunez, and Karen Bass.
It all started with the antagonism between Cruz and Gray Davis, but it has gone nowhere but down ever since.
The People of the great State of California in their progressive wisdom knew what to do even in 2003: they knew after the inanity of rolling blackouts followed by the indignity of the onset of bond fatigue that the budget needed to be cut across the board. That was what the people elected the Terminator to do in 2003.
It hasn't happened.
But that's not 100% Schwarzenegger's fault. It is one quarter of his fault. It is also the fault of various tone-deaf Assembly Speakers who may yet fumble the most liberal State in the Union into the Republican column yet again. The fault is on the leadership, entirely: Republican AND Democrat.