The quality of independence — and the appearance of it — was the theme of the day in Tuesday's mayoral campaign stops. First, the Republican former talk show host Kevin James headed out to Van Nuys to urge his voters from the mayoral primary to support Eric Garcetti in the runoff. The main reason: Garcetti would be the more independent mayor from City Hall insiders and the political pressure of labor, James said. Both Garcetti and Wendy Greuel had met with James to seek his support after he finished third in the primary.
An hour later at the UCLA Faculty Center, a new feistier Wendy Greuel delivered a speech to supporters that was all about framing her as the independent one in the race with the vision and the toughness to lead Los Angeles into uncertain times. It was a bit of a re-launch with some modified main themes under her new campaign management.
Greuel acknowledged the criticism she has received for all the cash support from labor unions, which could be an issue with voters concerned she would be a tool as mayor. But she countered with the support of business leaders such as the ex-mayor Richard Riordan, Magic Johnson and David Fleming (the lawyer who helped create and bankroll the Valley secession movement a decade ago.) In any case, Greuel said, she wouldn't be afraid to disappoint her backers in labor or in business as the city looked at cutting costs and rethinking pensions. She announced that, if elected, on the first day of her term she would cut the budget of the mayor's office by 25% and propose the same 25% hit in the budget of the City Council. Garcetti has been getting more endorsements of council members than Greuel has been.
Greuel used the speech to lay out some of her positions on education and refashioning of city services, and also took several swipes at Garcetti — sometimes by name and sometimes just by inference, knowing that her audience — including former lawmakers and mayoral aides Bob Hertzberg and Richard Katz, and ex-City Controller Rick Tuttle — would know who she meant. Garcetti is a nice guy, Greuel said, but she asked rather voters "want a fighter – a doer – as mayor? Or do they want someone who is good at the handshakes, but who won't stand by his work or his commitment?"
Greuel's attempt to evoke a runoff image as a scrapper included several mini-attacks on news media coverage of her campaign, saying a few times that reporters were overly fixated on her relationship with labor unions or had gotten things wrong. I couldn't tell if the media barbs were strategic talking points or just Greuel feeling pissy today, but they didn't ring true or helpful to her image. I kinda hope she moves on from blaming the reporters and commentators for doing job. If anything, Greuel and Garcetti both get off pretty easy in the coverage.
Here's Greuel's speech as provided by the campaign (she may have improvised in spots.)
I'm going to talk to you from my heart – from the foundation of who I am.
Up until now, there has been one issue that has dominated this race – and that's been my support from a particular group – labor – and I'm going to address that later in my speech.
That's unfortunate – and it's led to some of the media coverage and mud-slinging that you've seen.
But it's not what this race is about – it's not what voters care about.
This race is about the future of Los Angeles. Which candidate will be the courageous and tough leader for Los Angeles.
Who will fight with every ounce of their breath for this great city. Who has the business and public sector experience to lead. Who will be the one who guides us to a better, brighter future. My name is Wendy Greuel and I am that leader for Los Angeles.
I am not beholden to any one or any topic. I am independent – and my supporters know it. That’s what you like about me.
All of the opponents in the primary may now be on one side – but I'm on the side of a better Los Angeles. A better future. And I have plenty of supporters who made up their own mind – Mayor Riordan and Bill Clinton for starters. All of you in this room too.
I'm the one that has the courage to stand up – to fight – to say no – and to lead.
Leadership isn't just looking good on TV – it's about being good at what you do. I am good at the art and science of public service.
It is an art – and not everyone is good at it. It is a science – not all ideas are good ones. I am very good at public service, and I would put my record up against any civic leader in America.
But campaigning is another thing – debating is another thing. My job is to take my message to you – to voters – to the people of this city. There is a difference in this race, and people should care.
We have seven weeks to ignite voters to care. To pay attention. To make up their own mind. To not let some political rivals make the decision for you.
Do they want a fighter – a doer – as Mayor? Or do they want someone who is good at the handshakes, but who won't stand by his work or his commitment.
I'm really glad to be back at UCLA among so many friends and supporters.
I came here today because this is a place where ideas matter. It’s a place where people care about policy, not personality.
But, for me, UCLA holds a prominent place in my heart because this campus is where I first discovered my passion and my calling. For learning. For leading. For building coalitions. For solving problems. For making things happen.
I wanted to talk to some of my closest supporters – so we could have a conversation about issues and our future. About the difference I will make as Mayor of Los Angeles.
There needs to be more talk of the issues – and what really needs to change in Los Angeles – in this race.
Because the people of Los Angeles deserve a better campaign than what we have had up to now.
They deserve a campaign about what the next Mayor is actually going to do to lead Los Angeles forward, not just a campaign about how much money we’ve each raised, or who is supporting whom, or what the polls say.
They deserve a campaign about ideas, about putting L.A. back to work, about making government work for working families, and about improving our schools. They deserve an election that gives them a reason to vote for the ideas they like the best, not for the candidate they dislike the least.
LA needs a real leader who is more than a nice guy. We need a tough Mayor with a plan and proven record to get things done.
We need a Mayor in City Hall who will protect our tax dollars and hold people accountable to deliver results.
Today and over the next 7 weeks until the election, I’m going to talk about real solutions on how we lead L.A. forward.
I’m going to talk about our ideas.
I’m going to bring them directly to the voters in person, in town halls, in the mail and on TV. Not everyone is going to agree with everything I propose or everything I say--even my supporters.
But you know what, as President Obama often says, the job of a leader is to not just tell people what they want to hear, but what they need to hear.
So, lets talk about the elephant in the room.
The political establishment and the media seem to have a hard time dealing with the fact that one candidate for Mayor – me – has the overwhelming support of two historically divergent groups – labor and business.
One of the people who has the hardest times accepting that is my opponent, Eric Garcetti.
My opponent seems to think I should apologize for having earned the support of working people. When he’s not out pandering to them for their endorsement, Garcetti throws the word “union” around like it’s a slur, and has even called L.A.’s working people “Power Brokers.”
Today I have a message for Mr. Garcetti. I’m not going to apologize for having earned the support of working people, just as I’m not going to apologize for having earned the support of businesses, large and small. You know why?
Because working people aren’t power brokers. They’re our nurses and our firefighters. They’re our 9-1-1 dispatchers and paramedics.
They’re the people who pave our streets, who pick up our trash, who build the sets for our films. They clean up after us, take care of our kids and our parents. They make our city run and keep our neighborhoods safe.
I’m proud of my support from a wide range of leaders and groups – and I’m especially proud of the support from both business and labor leaders.
But let me make one thing clear: I won’t shy away from disagreeing with any supporter…at any time. Leading LA forward is the ONLY thing that will guide my decisions.
I won’t shy away from telling my friends in business I support collective bargaining – even for future workers. And I’m also not going to shy away from telling my friends in labor that the city is going broke and cannot sustain the current pension system. There will have to be more sacrifice for the long-term health of our city. And that means current workers—not just future workers, including DWP employees. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road like my opponent and the City Council did.
Working in partnership with business and labor will be a hallmark of my administration. Because that’s what a mayor does to deliver results.
Working with Mayor Tom Bradley, gave me a front row seat to witness and experience first hand the value of strong leadership in tackling the city's toughest problems.
Nothing was too big to take on…and no crisis was irrelevant…
it was inspiring.
The City was a leader back then…we made decisions and took positions that changed the world… from fighting apartheid by taking a tough stand against South Africa. We were the first and we led the way.
From starting curbside recycling...we were the first large city, and we led the way.
Leadership also means trying something new...and different.
We started a pilot... it was called LA's BEST...and it was about after school programs in our toughest schools. It started in 10 schools...it became a model for cities around the nation...and we are in 189 schools today.
All of these examples...show what leadership can mean for a city.
We made progress…LA led the way.
Los Angeles needs to return to a time of strong leadership…a time when problems are solved…jobs are created…when government works for the people rather than against the people
We need a Mayor who will lead LA forward.
But…first we must change the LA that has emerged over these past few years…
Today, paralysis rules…
Today, businesses leave the city one after another...
Today, we have the highest unemployment of the nation's 10 largest cities...
The optimism has faded…and mediocrity has set in.
The plain and simple truth: this election decides our future, and the choice is clear.
I’ve seen government work effectively…with strong leadership…to solve problems, to bring people together, and with personal integrity and passion.
I've also seen the other side – the under-belly of politics – first hand.
Where government becomes the problem. Where a good campaigner doesn't become a good elected official.
I’ve seen the politicians motivated by personal gain, by city cars, by taking lavish trips.
I’ve seen the gridlock that follows when there is a void of leadership in the city. Ideas don’t move forward. Pet projects and back-room deals become the norm.
That’s not my MO. It’s not who I am or how I work.
I’m motivated to deliver for people and for this city. To not take “no” for an answer.
On the City Council, I solved problems –reached compromise –showed leadership. Not just when the cameras are around, but each and every day, with each and every person.
As Controller, I am independent -- which meant I ruffled some feathers. That has helped me root out waste – and as Mayor I'm determined to put every dollar saved into the city's biggest priorities.
I’m here today to say: Our city requires strong leadership...We need strong leadership to make progress, and solve problems.
We can elevate this campaign and give voters a reason to vote for something, not more reasons to stay home on election day.
Now, let’s talk about issues that matter – how we’re going to put L.A. back to work.
First, it is imperative that we get our fiscal house in order.
As City Controller, I identified millions of dollars of waste, fraud and abuse.
I’ve seen how City Hall spends money and it's shameful. Because guess what? It's your money. And you deserve to know how your money is spent or mis-spent. We need transparency and accountability so as mayor, I will make LA the most transparent city government in America by making a database available to the public on a website that tracks how city dollars are spent on a daily basis in real time.
Leading by example, I’ll start on July 1 by cutting the Mayor’s current operating budget by 25 percent. We’ll operate more efficiently and we’ll work harder –
but we’ll work with less. That’s what families do each and every day, and that’s what our city needs to do.
But simply cutting the Mayor’s budget isn’t enough.
There are other areas of waste in the city government – up and down City Hall.
As the City’s Watchdog, I know first hand that there are layers of government – of bureaucracy – that are not necessary.
There are departments that could be consolidated and there are no sacred cows – everything needs to be on the table.
We must also reduce the cost of our City Council, and institute fundamental changes to the structure of our city government.
I will present a budget that contains a 25% budget cut for the City Council, and I challenge them to be part of Leading LA Forward and vote accordingly.
From there, I’ll go department by department… program by program…making the decisions that will lead LA forward.
And we’ll put those funds right back into neighborhood services including public safety...with more cops and firefighters on the streets...improving our unacceptably high emergency response times.
Let’s talk about job creation. Leading LA forward demands that we get creative about job creation...
Your Mayor must work every day of every hour creating jobs.
The national economy is in recovery…but LA lags far behind...
The Los Angeles unemployment rate stood at 13 percent when my opponent left his position at President of the City Council. At that same time, New York’s was three points lower, and the nation's unemployment rate was 5 percent lower.
You can't just raise your hands and blame the recession, as my opponent has done.
Government got in the way. Red tape and bureaucracy brought paralysis.
We need to lead the way...and operate in a way that strengthens small businesses.
We need to make sure workers have the skills needed for the jobs that are out there right now.
And we need to keep encouraging the innovation and entrepreneurship that put Los Angeles on the map.
I've worked in the private sector...I've owned a small business...I know what it is like to try to do business in the city.
As Mayor, I'm going to get the City government out of the way.
Most of the exciting developments in the next 20 years are not going to be brought to you by politicians – they'll be brought to you by innovators.
I'll create new ‘technology zones’ throughout out the City to help harness the creativity and innovation that already exists in Los Angeles.
We need a long –term economic strategy that creates jobs and opportunities. To that end, I will create partnerships with our local universities and community colleges to ensure we have the skilled workforce of the future.
I will work with private industry to leverage existing public money to create a $50 million tech jobs fund. Modeled after New York's successful fund, LA will partner with the private sector to test, develop, and commercialize new technologies and leverage private investment capital.
Another thing that we need to change: City contracts and city funds ought to go first to LA businesses before other cities benefit. You’ll recall that I was the one to raise the issue when contracts during the Michael Jackson memorial went to businesses 80 miles away in a different county. I will pursue legislative amendments to ensure we give preference to LA city businesses.
So, on July 1, I will take the necessary steps to require that any city contract is awarded to a business based in the city of LA. It’s about putting LA first.
It’s about putting residents back to work.
And yes, we need to continue to wean ourselves off of the gross receipts taxes,
in a responsible way and we need to redouble our efforts to keep Hollywood in our back yard.
I am committed to putting an end to runaway production in the City of Los Angeles. I understand our issues because I’ve lived them through my work at DreamWorks and my time over the past decade serving on the California Film Commission.
I will be a fierce advocate who will compete nationally and internationally for more entertainment jobs and expansion of the industry, right here,
in Los Angeles.
As Mayor, I will work hard to stop runaway production to keep entertainment jobs here in Los Angeles.
Central to the success of any economy is its education system.
There is no more fundamental right of government than to provide a quality education.
The health of our city -- from our ability to create jobs and compete economically, to our success in fighting crime and lifting families out of poverty -- that very basic definition of municipal health begins and ends with a quality education system.
As a parent and as your Mayor, I will fight to reform our public schools. We cannot accept where we are today – where 10 percent of our schools are responsible for 50 percent of the dropouts.
We must stand with parents in holding the Los Angeles school district accountable for making decisions rooted in what is best for our children and not adults or special interests.
As Mayor I will aggressively and creatively fight to ensure that every dollar is spent in the classroom. I will make sure that our neighborhood teachers, parents, and principals are in charge-- not downtown bureaucrats -- and that they work together with LAUSD and our newly elected City Controller to push for the access we need to conduct a full audit of their downtown bureaucracy and to ensure that every dollar is spent in the classroom.
We must stand with parents in holding the Los Angeles school district accountable for making decisions rooted in what is best for our children and not adults or special interests.
There is a lot of talk about teacher performance – and I support teacher evaluations that require measurements like student growth over time and reviews from parents and peers.
But leadership starts at the top – and parents have the right to quality leadership at every school.
LAUSD must also apply the same performance standards to principals as they do to teachers – with a clear link to student achievement.
Principals and teachers who aren’t up to the job…shouldn’t stay in our schools.
Today, there are too many schools that are placed on a “program improvement plan” – that is jargon for they are failing our students.
Many schools stay on this list, year after year, with the same abysmal results.
If a school fails to improve and remains on this list of under performers three years in a row, it is time for a change.. and parents must have more control over what type of school leadership– takes over.
And yes, that means parent triggers, charter school, and holding LAUSD schools accountable.
Improving our schools isn’t just up to the School District – it’s up to each elected official in office. It’s up to every parent – I know that as a parent of a child in public school. This is the single biggest threat to our city, and I’ll use my role as Mayor to make progress.
I’m energized by this race – and what lies ahead. This is just the beginning, when voters just start paying attention.
The game is on – and I’m ready to go toe-to-toe. The future of LA depends upon it.
In the weeks ahead, I will be talking more and more about the issues – strategically laying out the programs, the ideas, that will move this city forward.
I learned a lot from my time working for Bill Clinton, when I was overseeing the recovery from the Northridge Earthquake.
He knows better than anyone how critical it is to bring all stakeholders to the table…and how conversations and coalition-building must carry the day.
In essence, this race comes down to a choice between leaders – with some similarities, but many differences in background, approach and style.
I will be a strong leader for Los Angeles – one that can bring together people and solve our problems. We will move forward – and it will take change.
As the legendary coach John Wooden said, “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”
Unlike my opponent, I don't offer change for change sake.
I want LA to be the best LA that we can be -- not a new Manhattan, as my opponent wants. I want to harness the creative capitol of the world to ensure that “change” represents progress, improvement, and perpetual forward motion.
I will lead LA forward…one step and one initiative at a time…as we return this city to greatness.
Time and again, Los Angeles has made history. Now it’s our turn once again. Let’s reverse the course we are on… Let’s stop moving backwards… Let’s start making real progress for a change and lead Los Angeles forward.
Selected media coverage:
Maeve Reston, LA Times
Alice Walton, KPCC
Gene Maddaus, LA Weekly
LA Observed photo