I’m Home from ‘Down Under’ and It’s Back to Local Politics

MY TURN-This doesn't happen often! Remember college days when you ran to watch "Days of Our Lives" on TV, anxious to find out what disaster befell which member of the cast? Each morning I reach for the news to see what happened. It’s like living in an alternate universe and I keep hoping that, with time, I will be able to look at the "happenings" more dispassionately. 

When last I wrote at the end of the year, I was leaving on my annual R&R break, giving me a chance to travel – my second favorite thing…after writing for CityWatch, of course. Getting away is a good way to clear the head and think about the upcoming year. People who don't take a work break are doing themselves harm. No one is indispensable. 

I went to see longtime friends in Australia and New Zealand. I would suggest adding both countries to your travel "bucket" list. And it was the perfect time to be gone from all the political noise. Both countries have beautiful scenery, great food and wine, warm friendly people, stable governments and a lot of interest in the political changes taking place in the United States. 

In fact, I've not experienced this much curiosity about our country in many a year. They both have an arsenal of cartoonists and journalists who are having a great time at our expense. 

My first stop was a lake house north of Sydney that didn't have CNN or Fox News. The first couple of days withdrawing from news was like quitting smoking. But I adjusted and managed to clear my head by reading books and having huge political discussions with four generations under one roof. The patriarch of this family was a big Trump supporter but most of the rest were definitely not. The "Aussies" have always been strong allies of the U.S. but seem disconcerted about what is happening with our 45th President.

That was somewhat surprising because Australia tends to lean more conservative than its neighbor New Zealand, a country that was the birth of Greenpeace and remains very environmentally conscious. During my visit to New Zealand, I stayed with friends living in a forest overlooking a bay. There, they had both CNN and Fox News so my viewing habits returned quickly. 

I became accustomed to people asking me if I was from "Trump Land" -- and this was before the inauguration. Some of my fellow American travelers told people they were from Canada so they would avoid the usual comments and questions! 

I’ve been home for a short time now, and would say the atmosphere is certainly promoting increased sales in tranquilizers – especially for those who lost the election. Let's hope this will be a lesson learned for 2018: there is no such thing as a "sure thing" and staying involved is vital to a working democracy. 

So many words have been written about the national state of affairs. Unfortunately, much of the harsh rhetoric has extended to personal insults on social media. One of my long-term activist friends called me to say that she can't even look at her Facebook account. Many relationships have broken apart due to this Presidential election. 

One can criticize a policy but should not insult the person. President Trump was not my candidate but he won the election. No one else has called the voting into question. We need to respect the office and the people who voted for him. I am well aware that this courtesy was often not extended to ex-president Obama, but he set a great example by showing dignity and class.   

I have been paying attention to our local elections and have been bombarded by phone calls and flyers. If it was ever important before, it’s now of paramount importance. Never again will local government have as much influence on our lives as it will for the next four years. 

And no, I don't think CalExit is an option. I am an American by choice. I love this country and, like a marriage, it’s for better or for worse! 

Will we lose Federal funding? Maybe. But I believe we send more money to the Federal government than they remit to us. What are the contingency plans? There are many candidate meetings where constituents have the opportunity to ask the tough questions. The race for City Council seats is rather mild with only District 7 without an incumbent. This is the seat vacated by the infamous Felipe Fuentes where there are now 19 candidates. 

Does the Mayor’s recommendation mean an automatic winners? The majority of candidates are civic activists competing against a couple of professionals. One has to decide if political experience counts more or less than new ideas and a fresh outlook. It is really tough to raise money without strong backing. 

District 3 has Councilman Bob Blumenfield running unopposed as are Mike Feuer for City Attorney and Ron Galperin for Controller.

More and more I tend to think that in local elections like LA City Council, each candidate that qualifies should have the same amount of money to spend. How they use it will be a good indicator of how creative and financially responsible they are. 

We lose good people who would make great public servants because of unequal funding. Several candidates have stated they will not accept money from Real Estate Developers. They should also refuse union money. Both have vested interests in who is elected and have a disproportionate influence on the outcomes. 

I am sure that if every LA resident was asked to pay a small "fee"(since tax is a dirty word) to finance our local elections, the majority would do so if it would keep special interest money from gaining an unfair advantage. 

Not all "special interests" are evil. But instead of raising money for elections they could hold Town Halls and community meetings. This would give them a better opportunity to educate the electorate about their issues than sending dozens of flyers that often "stretch" the truth. 

We are a nation of survivors and if we do our part we will make sure that the next four years will not be the end of the world. 

As always, comments welcome.


(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: Denyse@CityWatchLA.com) Cartoon: Australian Financial Review. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.