Monday, February 28, 2005

 

The future of Los Angeles

I feel rather irresponsible. I've lived in Los Angeles my whole life, and this is the first time that I've taken the mayoral elections seriously. What amazes me even more is that when I asked the people who I work with, government employees in the city of Los Angeles, who they are going to vote for, a majority of them said, "Hahn?" which is the exact same thing that came out of my mouth.

Why? Because no one has paid attention to the race for the mayor of Los Angeles. A few days ago I wrote about what it would take for Mayor Hahn to win re-election, althought it seems that he isn't taking my advice. The Daily News mirrored my comments, and cited this:
Various polls indicate Hahn might even have trouble making a runoff with Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa generally running ahead of him and former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg rapidly gaining ground. So the final televised debate ... could prove crucial.

"This is a complicated election," said Raphael Sonenshein, a political science professor at California State University, Fullerton. "There is little real ideological difference among the candidates, but there is this controversy out there swirling around that could make voters feel uneasy."

The heart of the campaign waged by Villaraigosa, Hertzberg, Councilman Bernard Parks and state Sen. Richard Alarcon are federal and local grand juries looking at possible criminal misconduct in the Hahn administration and questions about whether the mayor has provided the leadership the city needs.


As I said, if Mayor Hahn admits that he made mistakes --- which doesn't mean he has to list them, or provide the general public with any sort of indictment against himself --- his approval rating would shoot through the roof, and his numbers would start to rise. If you take a look at the field, you will notice that Sonenshein is right in his assessment of the candidates: They're all differnet shades of vanilla, with Hahn standing out as the sundae because of the record he's built for himself. While political scholars can debate about what his records consists of, one thing is for sure, and that is the fact that it's honed on a local scale, more so than any of his competitors.

Unless you take the time to research, it'll be hard to tell that every noteworthy candidate is a Democrat, with the exception of Walter Moore. Moore stands firm on his conservative soapbox, pushing for more police officers, a harder stance on illegal immigration, and less bureaucracy in City Hall. The last conservative leader in the City of Los Angeles was Richard Riordan, who did a great job of cutting wasteful spending, and establishing a corruption task force, later given a new breath of life by District Attorney Steve Cooley with the creation of the JSID division of the DA's office.

Meanwhile, we have Bob Hertzberg, who has taken a grassroots approach to gaining popularity, all of the while pushing for commuters rights, a better system of spending tax dollars, and a list of supporters that would make the Backstreet Boys jealous. Anyone looking to fix LA's roads, as well as LA's schools, the latter supported by our governor himself, would probably choose Hertzberg.

And who could forget Antonio Villaraigosa? Not many people, apparently, as he, Hertzberg, and Hahn appear to be in a three-way tie for the office.
If the election were held today, the poll found, Villaraigosa, a city councilman, would win 24%, followed by Hertzberg, 21%, and Hahn, 20%. In effect, though, the three are tied, because the margin of sampling error for likely voters is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Thinking back to 2004, these flash-polls had John Kerry in the lead by double-digits, only to see him fall to a fiery defeat. Villaraigosa is taking a stand, but only a win and time will tell if he would really put his money where his mouth is, as promises like these have proven to be difficult to keep regardless of who you are:
Most major metropolitan areas like Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia have about twice as many police officers per person as we do. For years we've talked about putting more police officers on our streets, but it hasn't happened. Despite lofty rhetoric and many promises from the mayor's office, there has been no meaningful increase in the numbers of police officers on our streets over the past four years. Now he says he has a plan, but coming up with a plan in an election year is no excuse for 4 years of failure. I have a plan that begins by putting 300 new officers on our streets now, followed by an additional 1,300 officers within five years.

It's not that we don't believe that anyone in the mayor's office doesn't want to see more officers on the street, it's a matter of making that plan take effect by seeing it get past the city council. That's the roadblock anyone holding the title will face, regardless of political affiliation of budget spreadsheet.

But no matter what, we still find ourselves, even staunch conservatives such as myself, heading back to old faithful, that title belonging to Jim Hahn. Not only does he have the support of LAPD Chief Bratton, something that is a must for anyone who runs the city, but he initiated the precious tax reform for businesses within the city limits, something that would have a hard time passing through the gates of hell that are comprised of the inner-workings of City Hall itself.

So where is my vote going? To be perfectly honest, I don't know. I'd love to sit down with Mayor Hahn over lunch to talk about what his plans for the future are, considering that people like myself tend to close our ears around campaign season because we don't want to hear empty promises, and focus our attention on the press kits from the previous year to get the answers we're looking for. I, like every other person in this city, want someone who will follow through with their promises. That's all we ask for.

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