Radio talk show host Kevin James — the lone outsider and dark horse in the mayor’s race — announced today he has $500,000 in pledges for this campaign.
On Monday, LA Times columnist Jim Newton offered his thumbnail appraisal of the seven insider candidates, ranking County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a former Councilman, as the “front-runner” if “he jumps in — really and truly in,” a leap of faith he has shied away from repeatedly over the last couple of decades.
The LA Weekly is polling political observers for how they rate the candidates.
It’s kind of funny when you think about it.
We just had an election in which the populace exercised its voice in support of the crooks and failures who have served themselves and the special interests far better than they served the public and the mayoral primary is 23 months down the road.
The question to ask is this: Does it make much of a difference who is mayor if the system itself is rotten to its core?
Consider a bit of history of the office over the decades: In 1973, Tom Bradley ended the tyranny of the narrow-minded bigots who ran the city for their own benefit for decades, bringing new energy and excitement to the town. But by his fourth term, the Bradley Administration had grown stale and he nearly lost the 1989 election to a fifth term to the affable but irrelevant Nate Holden over revelations he was on the take from firms doing business with the city.
By 1993, the city was ready for change. The malaise of City Hall corruption, LAPD abuses brought to public notice by the Rodney King beating and the riots, the recession of the early 1990s all combined to help elect Richard Riordan as mayor on the promise to “turn L.A. around.”
Riordan did turn L.A. around. He just couldn’t getting moving in new directions.
His efforts to privatize non-core city functions, even sell the DWP’s power system, were thwarted by the union-controlled City Council. So Riordan tried Charter reform, only to see it taken hostage by the Council and various special interests that produced an incomprehensible system for dysfunction, granting some increase in authority to the what was and is a weak mayor system and creating powerless Neighborhood Councils while preserving most of its ability to sell favors to developers, contractors and others grown used to feeding at the public trough.
Enter Jim Hahn, in insider who had little dissonance with the way things were and whose passivity allowed various pay-to-play and play-then-pay schemes to flourish.
An endless stream and damaging investigations made him easy pickings after only one term for the charismatic Councilman and former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa.
In retrospect, Hahn, Riordan, the later years of Bradley, even Nate Holden are looking better all the time.
It’s not just business as usual at City Hall. It’s a City Hall that is for sale to just about anyone who has the cash to stuff into campaign war chests, office holder accounts, political issue funds or provide tickets to luxury sports and entertainment events or buy a high-priced meal with a fine bottle of wine or two.
There are no safeguards for the public interest as evidenced by the feeble investigations of Antonio’s flagrant and deliberate disregard of laws requiring that gifts be reported to the city and state ethics enforcement agencies.
He ignored those rules taking dozens of freebies worth tens of thousands of dollars but the official verdict was his violations were “unintentional” because of his lame assertion that everything he does as mayor is ceremonial, a royal prerogative that even the Queen of England.cannot get away with.
The upshot is he has to pay $42,000 in fines that will be covered by the very same people who have funded his various activities and gotten rewards in public benefits 100 or even 1,000 times what it cost them.
You would think the candidates for mayor in 2013 would all run on the promise to clean up City Hall.
That won’t be so easy for downtown Councilwoman Jan Perry and Hollywood Councilman Eric Garcetti who have delivered some handsome favors of public cash and public benefits to developers in their own districts and looked the other way about the systemic corruption at City Hall.
Controller Wendy Greuel and FIrst Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner has similar problems, if not of the same magnitude. They are inside City Hall. They have stood buy without a word of protest about the budget crisis or uncontrolled development. In fact, for the most part they have embraced the same destructive policies that have so badly damaged the Villaraigosa Administration..
Billionaire Rick Caruso is at once an insider, having served on several major city commissions, and a developer of massive shopping centers — a background that hardly suggests a knight in shining armor.
State Sen. Alex Padilla, the former Council President, has never shown in either capacity any proclivity to stand up to the power structure. Rather, he always seem to stand with the power structure.
Yaroslavsky is everybody’s front-runner. He’s tougher than most and more fiscally responsibility but there serious doubts about whether he has any fire left in his belly after all these years of accommodating many of the same interests as everyone else.
That leaves the outsider Kevin James, a gay Republican who is getting no respect from any of the pundits. He has none of the baggage as the others and will certainly run as a crusader against City Hall’s corruption. He could even make it into the runoff in the large field that seems to be likely but it’s safe to say the big money special interests to do everything it can to bury him in the end.
But let’s say for the moment, he did win the election. He could veto every dirty deal, fire incompetent general managers and submit austerity budgets but they always vote unanimously and so would override his action every time. He could fire incompetent general managers and submit austerity budgets. He could even get tough in union negotiations but so what when everyone else is owned lock, stock and barrel by them.
So if who is mayor doesn’t matter that much, is there any hope or should we all just pack up and exercise our right to exit the city like so many others have done in the last 30 years?
I hope not. Despite the inability of the good citizens of the city to get enough traction in the recent election, I haven’t lost my faith that our day will come. They have no answers, no political will to fix what is broken. It is all smoke and mirrors and slogans without meaning.
Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better. Things are going to get worse, you can count on that.