Bill Boyarsky
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June 23, 2010

Mayor, take those tickets

I don’t think there is anything wrong with the mayor taking all those free tickets.

This puts me at odds with almost everyone I know, including blogger Ron Kaye, who wants the mayor jailed.

The ticket affair began with stories by John Schwada of Fox 11 and Phil Willon of the Los Angeles Times telling how Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was admitted free to Lakers and Dodgers games, award shows and concerts. There were as many as 80 of these freebies with a value, according to the news reports, of thousands of dollars. Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley and the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission are investigating.

State and city laws require gifts to politicians be reported. State law prohibits them from accepting gifts of more than $420 a year. Villaraigosa says admission to such events is not a gift if the mayor is there conducting public business or has a ceremonial role.

I agree. The mayor of Los Angeles is chief executive, political leader, ambassador, chief lobbyist and cheerleader for the city. His duties are much broader than those of other elected officials. His job requires that he attend events in the poorest areas of L.A. and the richest, as well as in middle class neighborhoods. He visits dining spots ranging from school cafeterias to high priced fundraisers in the most expensive hotels.

As for sports, they are an integral part of L.A. life. The mayor should show up at Dodgers and Lakers games, especially the big ones. He should be at concerts, too, the Philharmonic as well as Shakira. Music and sports are important shared interests in this sprawling city and the mayor should encourage them. He shouldn’t have to pull out his credit card every time he attends a high priced fund raiser or opening day at Dodgers Stadium.

The mayor should be everywhere, from churches, mosques and synagogues to festivals, to political dinners, to concerts, to City Hall and the MTA building, to the Oscars and other award events--and to ball games. Attendance at such events--big or small, boring or exciting, simple or glamorous—are part of the job.

June 5, 2010

Harman, Winograd and Israel

The Israeli attack on the flotilla carrying aid to Gaza has become an issue in the Los Angeles County coastal district congressional contest between Democratic Rep. Jane Harman and her more liberal challenger, Marcy Winograd.

It is part of the disagreement between these two Jewish women over the future of Israel itself. Harman is a staunch supporter of Israel as a Jewish state. Winograd, on the other hand, says she envisions what is now Israel as “a secular democratic state where Jews, Palestinians, all citizens would enjoy equal rights.” She said she would support side-by-side Jewish and Palestinian states although she also said “Personally, I think it is too late for a two-state solution… “. Harman supporter Rep. Henry Waxman said, “In Marcy Winograd’s vision, Israel would cease to exist,“

Israel’s future is a huge issue in the Jewish community. Jews constitute a comparatively small number of voters in the 36th Congressional District, which extends from West Los Angeles south through the beach cities and inland to Torrance. But they can be counted on to show up at the polls on election day, especially if Israel is an issue.

I saw how important the issue was to the Harman campaign when I paraphrased Winograd’s position in LA Observed, saying she supported a two- state plan. I got seven e-mails, the first at 7:01 a.m. the last at 10:51 a.m., from Harvey Englander, Harman’s campaign consultant, protesting that my journalistic shorthand didn’t fully explain the Winograd position.

Their differences came out again after nine men were killed when Israeli commandoes boarded the ships in the flotilla.

Winograd quickly issued a statement saying “I suspect the murders were committed as a warning to others who might want to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza. Ironically, the killings are bound to heighten awareness about the brutal blockade and to increase pressure to end the imprisonment of over a million people in Gaza.”

Harman said, “I join President Obama in expressing my deep sorrow at the loss of life, and hope for a speedy recovery for the wounded flotilla members and Israeli soldiers. However, until the facts of this complex and tragic episode are fully investigated and understood, it is premature to assess blame or call anyone a murderer. The focus now must be on preventing events from escalating and leading to more violence or scuttling the peace process. It is my hope that Israel will promptly permit any humanitarian supplies contained on the six vessels to travel from the port of Ashdod to the people of Gaza.”

When another ship tries to make it to Gaza, look for this dispute to continue--and to resonate among Jewish voters.


June 2, 2010

Politics in Mar Vista packs them in

The Mar Vista recreation center overflowed with Westside political addicts for a candidates’ night for the 53rd Assembly district and the hottest Los Angeles congressional race, between Democratic Rep. Jane Harman and her primary challenger, Marcy Winograd.

Arriving 10 minutes late Tuesday night, I had to park three blocks away. Every seat was taken. People stood along the sides of the room and in the rear and into a patio outside.

Most of the eight candidates were present to speak about their campaigns for the 53rd District seat, vacated by Ted Lieu, who is running for the Democratic nomination for attorney general. The district extends from Santa Monica to Torrance and Lomita and includes some strong liberal areas, such as Venice and Mar Vista. The candidates were impressive. Check out the Daily Breeze web site for thorough profiles of them.

Winograd had the spotlight to herself since Harman didn’t show up, although I am sure the challenger would have liked to see the congresswoman on the stage. They are competing in the 36th District, which reaches from Los Angeles suburbs through beach cities and inland cities. Harman represented the district from 1993 to 1998 when she ran and lost for governor, and was elected to the seat again in 2000. Her personal wealth and campaign contributions make it a tough race for Winograd, who ran against Harman in 2006 and lost by a big margin. She says she lost badly because she entered the race too late. This time, she started early.

Winograd stood with the crowd in the rear of the room listening to the Assembly candidates until a supporter arrived with a sandwich she could eat before she spoke. We chatted while she ate out in the patio. She said she thought her campaign was doing well with a week to go and was pleased by articles about the race in the Los Angeles Times and Salon portraying her as a strong challenger.

Afghanistan and Israel are the big issues. Harman is one of Congress’ strongest Israel backers. Winograd favors a two- state solution but is critical of Israel. Harman supports President Barack Obama’s plan for a slow and phased withdrawal from Afghanistan. Winograd wants us out quickly. The result will be watched nationally as a test of sentiment on the Afghanistan war.

The war, she said, is “draining the economy…we need to transit from a war economy to a green economy.”

But, as the cliché goes, all politics is local. Like the other candidates that evening, she promised to ban jets from the Santa Monica airport, a huge issue in the area. There’s a network of anti-jet campaigners in Mar Vista and other neighborhoods afflicted by the noisy planes and Winograd is smart to tap into it.

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