Sizing up the mayor's race

cityhall2.jpgIn a word, sigh. Even by the normally uninspired nature of L.A. elections, this one has often resembled a campaign for class president. High school class president. The house money still has Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel in the runoff, though it's telling that half the voters who back either candidate say they might change their minds before Tuesday, according to the LAT/USC poll. Once again, we have a flip-the-coin election - and no one much cares whether it's heads or tails. From the start, the most obvious problem has been the crop of candidates: Boring, misleading, conniving, pandering, unimaginative - yeah, I know an election brings out the worst in people, but this has been a dispiriting contest even by L.A. standards. The biggest letdown has been Greuel, who unabashedly aligned herself with union interests that have little if any desire to deal with the city's serious fiscal problems. Even putting aside her unholy alliances, Greuel quickly lost credibility by suggesting that much of the city's money woes can be addressed by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse - a silly mantra that's been used for years by other candidates in other races in other cities and states and that is simply hogwash. Garcetti has been peddling his own fantasy world, one in which he takes credit for working with the unions to make L.A.'s deficit problems merely miserable instead of outright horrible - and then suggesting that miserable is not such a bad place to be. Barring a late charge by the other candidates (not impossible given the expected low turnout), one of these two will be leading L.A. come July, and while many Angelenos are anxious to have our attention-challenged, self-centered playboy mayor out of office, I'm not sure the city will be any better off. At least Villaraigosa showed a willingness to push back on union demands, something this current crop might not be able to do. Which brings up the other problem about the race for mayor: This is really not a contest worth winning. Over the last five years, budget cuts have hollowed out much of city government, and the near-term projections are not encouraging. It's doubtful that L.A. will be forced into any actual bankruptcy, but it does face a kind of virtual bankruptcy, where decision-making degenerates into municipal triage. None of which is the kind of unhappy reality you'd want to bring up in a campaign - at least if you want to win. So instead the top two candidates are pretending that L.A. is still some magical, world-class metropolis where the future is forever bright. That sentiment was always a little suspect, even in the go-go years, and in 2013 it's downright nonsensical.

More by Mark Lacter:
American-US Air settlement with DOJ includes small tweak at LAX
Socal housing market going nowhere fast
Amazon keeps pushing for faster L.A. delivery
Another rugged quarter for Tribune Co. papers
How does Stanford compete with the big boys?
Those awful infographics that promise to explain and only distort
Best to low-ball today's employment report
Further fallout from airport shootings
Crazy opening for Twitter*
Should Twitter be valued at $18 billion?
Recent Campaign 2013 stories:
Shallman and Carrick on 'Which Way, LA?' tonight
Greuel consultant blames the LA Times
Morning Buzz: Friday 5.24.13
Campaign 2013 photo gallery by Gary Leonard
Election post-mortem in quotes (some very pointed)

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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