Fri, Sep

2020 is a Sink or Swim Year for LA

@THE GUSS REPORT-Most telling about local political reporting in the last few weeks of 2019 was when Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti – whose disastrous 19-year tenure on City Council and as Mayor mercifully winds down – assembled LA’s dutiful media to announce (ta-da!) that he is waiving all past-due library fees. 

Not another empty promise about homelessness, crime, traffic, the filthy and dangerous subway system or any other fill-in-the-blank. Library fees. 

That’s because with few exceptions (like you, “John and Ken Show” on KFI-AM640, Elex Michaelson of Fox 11’s “The Issue Is,” and Jon Regardie, whose stellar observations now show up in Los Angeles Magazine) the LA political media still largely fawns and facilitates our corrupt-o-crats. 

Fawning, like how ABC-7 and the LA Times endlessly played footsie with Garcetti about will he / won’t he run for president when they instead should have indignantly asked him, “President? Are you high, mon?” 

Nobody is more to blame for LA’s homelessness than Garcetti. He lied to protestors outside of his home about going to D..C to get more money for homeless programs when he primarily headed there for personal political advancement. He lied about ending veteran homelessness by the end of his first term. He lied about virtually everything that mattered most in LA. 

Take a walk down Brand Boulevard in Glendale, or the Las Vegas Strip for that matter, and you get barely a glimpse of homelessness. It isn’t that those places, or other regional hubs, lack a homeless problem; they just manage it better with fewer assets. They are decisive. They have spines. They get things done. 

Garcetti, who is termed-out, shares some of this blame with other prominent termed-out politicos who now seek to play musical chairs with their gigs, namely LA City Council president Herb Wesson and LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. 

Both men are experienced, polished and cunning but share other corrupt attributes: they consistently mire themselves in personal controversy and serve their families before the rest of us. It isn’t for lack of talent; that’s just how they roll despite horrendous and worsening conditions in their communities. 

Wesson and Ridley-Thomas both face strong, capable and more trustworthy opponents (Jan Perry and Holly Mitchell against Wesson and Grace Yoo taking on MRT) who also happen to be women of color, since that matters as much as integrity does these days. 

But to watch the local media, these two political races are each a fait accompli

They’re not.  

If Wesson and Ridley-Thomas pull-off this switcheroo – with Wesson as Supervisor and Ridley-Thomas as Councilmember – the reservoir of compassion for the constituents from these underserved, suffering communities may bottom out. 

The voters in these overlapping communities are the only people who decide who gets elected. If they choose more gentrification, crime and disregard, Wesson and Ridley-Thomas will keep punching down on them. If they’re worried about poor and worsening housing options, these men will keep making things worse. If they’re worried about the status quo, Wesson and Ridley-Thomas will keep the disappointments coming. 

The choice to continue suffering isn’t in the hands of the media, try as it might. It isn’t in the hands of the political consultants who run their campaigns. These two elections are solely in the hands of those who place the ink on ballots and of those who stay home on Election Day. 

George W. Bush became president on January 20, 2001 and inherited the terrorist attacks of 9/11 just 235 days later. Barack Obama became president on January 20, 2009 and inherited the financial crisis from the very first minute. Nury Martinez is now a day or so into her stint as LA City Council president, succeeding Wesson and immediately inheriting all the disasters and dangers plaguing the nation’s second largest city.  

What these presidents share is that they play the hand they’re dealt and there is no on-the-job learning or buffer. There are no do-overs. Things just got very real for Martinez. 

She is the first Latina LA City Council president and the first woman in that role since Pat Russell held it in the mid-1980s during the back end of a City Council career that spanned from 1969 through 1987.   

The big question is whether Martinez will follow the same corrupt path and abusive leadership of her mentor, Wesson, or carve an independent streak of her own. 

In 1983, when it was hinted that Russell became Council president only because of the support of then-LA Mayor Tom Bradley, she said, of women being in charge, according to the LA Times, "All my life there have been men who have tried to tell me what to do. . .I think the only people who think that are mostly males who believe that a woman cannot think for herself.” 

If there was ever a time for Martinez to breathe life into Russell’s independent spirit, it’s right now. Despite her attempts to shut out her critics and ignore those outside of the system trying to make things better, we should root for her to bring fresh ideas because just when you think things can’t get worse, they often do. And she will shoulder most of the blame. 

2020 is a sink or swim year for LA. And as the late, great Yogi Berra said, “it gets late early out there.”


(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatchLA, KFI AM-640, iHeartMedia, 790-KABC, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal, Pasadena Star News, Los Angeles Downtown News, and the Los Angeles Times in its Sports, Opinion, Entertainment sections and Sunday Magazine, among other publishers. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.