Campaign Monday: What's new in the race for City Hall

Eric Garcetti and the UTLA connection

LA Times op-ed columnist Jim Newton turns in his Monday column to the question of whether mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti's education positions have been shaped too much by his support from United Teachers of Los Angeles, the teachers union in LAUSD. Here's a sample:

To the cynically tuned ear, two remarks by Los Angeles Councilman Eric Garcetti in recent days seem to suggest the perils of a mayoral candidacy dependent, at least in some measure, on support from United Teachers Los Angeles, the union that represents local teachers.


The first came in a debate moderated by former Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner, who had considered running for mayor himself. Beutner tried to pin down Garcetti about whom the councilman is supporting in a school board race that features incumbent Monica Garcia, generally regarded as a supporter of reform, against four opponents, three of whom are backed by the union. "I admire Monica Garcia a lot," Garcetti said. Asked again whether that meant he would vote for her, Garcetti again responded: "I admire Monica Garcia a lot."

The second came in telling exchanges involving the so-called parent trigger law, which allows parents at a failing school to band together and force a district to demand changes, including to personnel. This time, it began with Patrick Range McDonald from LA Weekly, who posed a question to all five candidates, asking whether they supported the law, which the union opposes. Four said they did. Garcetti expressed support for parents who were turning to the law for help but stopped short of endorsing it outright.

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It's hard to regard Garcetti's wariness on these subjects as unrelated to his endorsement by UTLA, which has too often elevated job protection for teachers over the best interests of children.

Independent spending surges toward the end

Hey, if you can't try to buy an election in the final week when voters are making up their minds, when can you? Working Californians, the group that's mostly a spending front for the DWP union, has upped its investment in a Wendy Greuel victory to $1.65 million, according to reports filed Saturday.

Two other independent expenditure committees, overseen by the LAPD union, are now up to $578,562 spent on TV and radio ads pushing support for Greuel. (LAT)

Meanwhile, the committee organized by Republican strategist Fred Davis to create an independent campaign for James has stalled. Just $9,700 has come in since the last report.

Also: Times columnist Steve Lopez did a piece on the $1 million that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has dumped into Los Angeles school board races.

Voter interest is, um, not high

I saw a lot of campaign foot soldiers out canvassing in neighborhoods this weekend, and received another half-dozen or so pieces of political mail. (Including a personal first: mailers pro and con mentioning a neighbor on my street who is in one of the hotter races.) But i'm not letting the activity fool me. Every poll I've seen has found Los Angeles voters are not very interested in the mayoral race, and less so in the down-ballot contests. Now Rick Orlov's Monday Tipoff column in the Daily News says only about 10 percent of voters who requested mail-in ballots have sent them back. "The lack of public interest in the race - or perhaps it's because there are so many candidates - has been evident in the early absentee ballots," says Orlov.

The election — the deadline day for getting your ballot in — is a week from Tuesday. That's March 5.

Kevin James and the Jennifer Aniston connection

jennifer-aniston.jpgCandidate for mayor Kevin James says he became a conservative talk radio host directly due to his work as a lawyer for actress Jennifer Aniston, helping her block an adult publication from running topless photos of her. When the case ended, he went on KABC 790 to talk about it. Out of that grew a new career, which you could argue was based on tapping into and exciting male anger across Southern California.

Monday's story in the LA Times, however, is actually more about how as a candidate for mayor, who has to appeal to voters in liberal Los Angeles, James is taking new positions. One of the funnier ones is that he recently criticized his rival candidates for not doing more to control greenhouse gases. When he was on the radio, James adhered to the anger talk staple of ridiculing fears about climate change. From the LAT:

As a conservative talk show host, he wrote a column in Townhall.com calling Democrats "global warming wimps" who are exploiting the issue for political gain. The phrase "carbon footprint," he wrote, "is code for limitless government intrusion into every detail of your life. Nothing is beyond the reach of a government determined to reduce your carbon footprint in the name of the environment. To these people, nothing is sacred, nothing is private, nothing is truly yours."


His statements at that time could be incendiary. In a Townhall.com column in 2009, he wrote that Obama should choose Daffy Duck, the Warner Bros.' cartoon character, as his Supreme Court pick to replace the retiring David Souter. The reasons he cited: The duck is black, disabled (with a speech impediment) and a "professional victim."

In an on-air quarrel with MSNBC's "Hardball" host Chris Matthews, James suggested that then-candidate Barack Obama was a foreign-policy appeaser comparable to Neville Chamberlain, the former British prime minister who made a deal with Adolf Hitler in an attempt to avoid war.

"You're BS-ing me," Matthews chided James, noting later that there is a difference between talks and appeasement, which involves making concessions to potential aggressors. "This is pathetic. He doesn't even know what Chamberlain did at Munich.... We're talking to people with blank slates about history."

The Times story by Catherine Saillant and Dan Weikel, running eight days before the primary election for mayor, is billed as the "first in a series of articles focusing on key periods in the lives of the mayoral hopefuls."

Bikes are good, now let's talk traffic

Times editorial writer Carla Hall, a Brentwood resident, is disappointed that the best the candidates for City Council in her 11th district can offer for traffic is overtures to the bike lobby. From her piece:

I’ve thought about traffic a lot -- often, in traffic. I live in Brentwood, work downtown, do not own a bicycle and have no plans to commute on a bus or a train, neither of which is remotely in easy walking distance for someone who leaves home in the morning with a handbag, work bag, gym bag and extra sweaters for the chilly office. My brother, who formerly lived on the Palos Verdes peninsula, did get bike religion and became an enthusiastic weekend rider. I know this because, when his $3,000 bike broke down at Will Rogers State Beach, I had to go and rescue him -- in my car, of course.


I get that we need more light rail, safer bike lanes, bike parking, etc. But shouldn’t we be more aggressive about trying to alleviate traffic?

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So far, city officials have done a dismal job of integrating bikes and cars. Cyclists peddle furiously but hopelessly slower than cars on Wilshire in the morning traffic while drivers slow down so they won’t hit them, then frantically try to change lanes without getting hit themselves. It’s as though city officials practice a kind of magical realism: “Let’s have more bicycles on the streets! Cyclists and drivers — just figure it out for yourselves!”

Frederick Sutton, a candidate in District 11, got it right when he said: “When I’m on a bike, I’m afraid of cars. And when I’m driving a car, I’m afraid of bicyclists.” Sutton said he would put a traffic engineer on his staff if he got the council job.

Socialists don't like anybody for mayor

The World Socialist Web Site posted a report on the election this morning that concludes "Los Angeles mayoral candidates offer no choice for the working class." Here's some elaboration:

Greuel and Garcetti are in an all-out scramble to obtain union endorsements. These endorsements are critical, not just for purposes of fundraising. Whoever wins their support will have an ally in imposing draconian cuts on city workers.


With the candidates unable to offer the working class anything but austerity and cuts, the role of identity politics predictably has reared its head, with each seeking the support of various constituencies on the basis of their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation and even religion. None offers anything for the working.

New endorsements
Greg Smith for City Attorney DN
Mitch O'Farrell in City Council district 13 LAT
David Roberts in council district 9 LAT
The Sierra Club endorsed Eric Garcetti at Will Rogers State Beach.


New coverage of Campaign 2013


More by Kevin Roderick:
Campaign Tuesday: Power in LA, what we don't know, new big spenders
Bunch of moves at the LA Daily Journal
New science writer for LA Times
Oscar ratings are up despite the reviews
Yaroslavsky slams Jan Perry mailer
Recent Campaign 2013 stories on LA Observed:
Campaign Tuesday: Power in LA, what we don't know, new big spenders
Yaroslavsky slams Jan Perry mailer
Campaign Monday: What's new in the race for City Hall
Condomania and the campaign
Now Perry mailers suggest Wendy Greuel is a Republican

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