Grassroots Advice to the Mayor-Elect: Dance with the One Who Brung You

ALPERN AT LARGE - We should all be thrilled that, unlike his predecessor, Eric Garcetti is having a lean, mean team of just one person--Rich Llewellyn--to choose his staff and appointees.

 It's also a positive development that the mayor-elect is pursuing advice from ordinary Angelenos--the volunteers and the citizenry of Los Angeles--to fix our City. 

So here's my advice, Mr. Mayor-Elect--and I do this with the understanding that I supported you in the runoff, I donated to your campaign, and I spoke repeatedly in your favor in numerous CityWatch articles: 

1) There's no time for partying--we're a City that might have a few great things going for it, but if we don't reform it from fiscal, political and operational standpoints we're going to be in a world of hurt.  On your watch. 

Outgoing Mayor Villaraigosa was a man who I once entirely supported, and was thrilled when he was first elected, and recognized he did a few great things as Mayor.  There's a lot about Mayor Villaraigosa to be emulated in your own mayoral term of office, particularly how he was so enthusiastic in his first few months in office. 

But Villaraigosa made it all about HIM--somewhere along the way, his ego and his desire for wine, women and partying trumped his obligations to the people of Los Angeles, and his desire to go out with a big expensive party is an ugly epitaph on what could have been, and should have been, a wonderful and historical legacy. 

People are hurting--either they're out of a job, have a job without benefits, or have 2-3 jobs that might pay the bills but aren't moving ahead in their lives...and the tax and utility bills are only getting higher.  Outside the bubble of the public sector, people of all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds are very unhappy.  Speak to them.

 

2) Please remember why Ms. Greuel lost (Part 1):  Don't cow-tow to the unions, and reject the "straw man argument" that Wendy Greuel threw up that declared if you oppose the unions, you hate our public sector altogether.

 

Where and when Ms. Greuel lost me was years ago, when at a Mar Vista Community Council meeting, I asked her as a Boardmember whether she thought having Neighborhood Council-elected/appointed taxpayer ombudsmen at all private union/Council meetings to discuss how public funds were going to be spent on pensions, benefits and pay hikes for City and DWP workers.

 

She declared that these ombudsmen weren't needed, because elected officials like her were the taxpayer ombudsmen.

 

Right.  That's worked just great for us all, hasn't it?

 

One need not be conservative or Republican to understand why liberal Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt always opposed public sector unions--it placed the public sector at an unfair advantage over the taxpayers and the elected politicians who were supposed to represent EVERYBODY.

 

Mayor-Elect Garcetti, you and Controller-Elect Galperin would do very well to have the Neighborhood Councils and other related volunteers (you know, the ones who came out and really represented themselves at the ballot box last May 21st) have mandatory representation and presence at all meetings discussing public funds.

 

3) Please remember why Ms. Greuel lost (Part 2):  People don't want liberal or conservative politicians as much as they want principled politicians.

 

Don't pander to "liberal" or "conservative" interests to prove you're someone you're not.  Jerry Brown has a lot of support among conservatives and Republicans in Sacramento (albeit begrudgingly) because he's principled, he tries to live within his means, and he's determined to balance the budget and be fair.

 

Similarly, Mitt Romney and Wendy Greuel lost in their recent election bids NOT because they were conservative, or liberal, or what have you--they were all over the place and looked like empty suits who just wanted to be elected.  Having Richard Riordan support Greuel didn't mean she's be fiscally conservative, and having Magic Johnson and Maxine Waters support her didn't mean she'd be great for black and female voters.

 

We want the real deal--make tough decisions, talk politely and bluntly, and show compassion and a deep understanding of complicated issues.  We're all "working people", whether we're rich or poor or anywhere in-between, or whether we get paid or volunteer for our hard work and community service and childrearing.

 

Be "the real deal".  Just like you are with your wife and children.

 

4) Demand our fair share from Sacramento and Washington.

 

As the elected Mayor of Los Angeles, you are clearly the front-running representative of Southern California...particularly with powerful County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky retiring.  Be "the man" when it comes to transportation, education and other funding in a state where our political leadership is virtually entirely from Northern California.

 

Get the funds for the LAUSD, get the Neighborhood Empowerment zones and tax-favored zones for blighted areas, and expedite the Metro Long-Range Plan rail and freeway and road New Starts and repairs.  Show them what a Rhodes Scholar can really do...and lead an army of elected and volunteer activists in achieving these goals.

 

5) Show up for, and don't stand up, the grassroots.  We elected you.

 

As the lawsuits begin in Westchester, Culver City, Ontario, etc. over a Los Angeles World Airports that is hellbent on expanding LAX passenger capacity--legal settlements of 78 MAP be damned--it would be nice to have a set of Commissioners and advisors who could pursue construction projects that aren't delayed by lawsuits.

 

Follow through with the Westsiders and others who voted for you.  Get better commissioners on the LAWA and CPC and other commissions than those who keep stepping on the collective neck of the citizenry while favoring the fiscal well-being of a heavily-lobbying minority. Or, as they say, dance with the one who brung you!

 

Show up when the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition invites you to comment on getting Neighborhood Council representatives on the Executive Employee Relations Committee.

 

Show up when the City Council votes this June 12th for the oversized and environmentally horrible Casden Sepulveda project that singlehandedly threatens to undo all the good that the Expo Line was supposed to do.  Make sure the City Council learns the lessons of the last May 21st election.

 

Pursue projects that might require variants...but won't require lawsuits because they're prima facie so huge and ridiculous that the City will be hurt, not helped, by their size, scope and inability for mitigation.

 

In short, and in closing, I wish you good luck, Mr. Mayor-Elect.  Be the man we want you to be, and get your own name into the history books.

 

(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at Alpern@MarVista.org  He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.

-cw

 

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 11 Issue 46

Pub: June 7, 2013