In their many forums, the five mayoral candidates resemble a traveling troupe of actors performing the same roles at each performance, always pretty good but never noteworthy. Tuesday night at Sinai Temple, however, City Councilwoman Jan Perry broke out of the pack with a star turn that made her the evening’s clear winner.
The moderator, Rabbi David Wolpe, asked questions “intended to put the mayoral hopefuls off of their pre-scripted stump speeches,” Jonah Lowenfeld observed in his Jewish Journal story.
One late in the forum certainly did. Wolpe said, “Let’s say you had in front of you the top 500 Hollywood executives. What is it you want to say to them about the movies they make, the city they live in and about the image they give our city and our country to the world? And is it the mayor’s job to monitor, lecture, to uplift, to help shape Los Angeles’ most important industry?”
City Councilman Eric Garcetti offered his usual pitch about giving the industry more tax breaks and other incentives to film in Los Angeles. Similar economic solutions were offered by Controller Wendy Greuel, attorney and former radio talk show host Kevin James and Obama administration transition official Emanuel Pleitez.
Councilwoman Perry seemed to understand that the rabbi had something deeper in mind. She said she had supported legislation to make it easier to make feature film in California, but she quickly moved on: “If we had a room full of executives from the film industry, I would say this: I would encourage your creativity. I would encourage you to put people in Los Angeles back to work. We have unchecked potential here and I would encourage you to create more apprenticeships, more internships, more opportunities to reach out to young people who may not have the connections or the wherewithal to have a career in the industry and to pull them along with you.
“I’d also say this: ‘Let’s go to the schools, let’s talk to families about the portrayal of violence in movies and how it does desensitize younger people who spend too much time playing violent games on line and then go see it in the movies and remember how it does affect the growth of the next generation.”
She made a good point. City hall is obligated to help Hollywood but it’s not a one-way street. Hollywood has an obligation to the city, to the women and men trying to break into the notoriously closed industry and to the young people who support its films.
It was gutty for a candidate to talk like that to an industry which brooks no criticism. I thought her clear, plain language—without the city hall jargon of her earlier appearances—distinguished her from her opponents, and showed growing skill on the campaign trail.
Interestingly when Wolpe asked the candidates whom they would vote for if they couldn’t vote for themselves, Perry’s four opponents said they’d cast a ballot for her. Perry said she’d vote for Pleitez.
A word about the crowd. It was big, almost filling a large room at the temple. Cars were lined up for a block on Beverly Glen Boulevard, waiting to get into the garage. I had to park two long blocks away on Wellworth Avenue and when I reached the temple the entrance was packed with people waiting to be admitted. You needed to have sent in an RSVP, but the frustrated crowd was too big for the system . I had not submitted an RSVP and was barred by the overwhelmed security guards until a man who had recognized me as a journalist googled a bio with a picture, showed it to the guards and escorted me inside just in time. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t take down his name so I could thank him here.
There are supposed to be 18 more of these forums until the March 5 primary election. Let’s hope the forums turn into debates and the moderators are as sharp and provocative as Rabbi Wolpe.