Wed, Aug

Gut Feelings for 2013

PERSPECTIVE - The field for the Los Angeles City Controller increased by 100% a few weeks ago when activist Cary Brazeman announced his candidacy.  City Council Member Dennis Zine is the only other announced candidate.

I am aware of another person considering a run.

Also, there was speculation that Council Member Jan Perry would bolt from the mayoral race and challenge Zine and Brazeman.  Since she secured an endorsement from former Council Member Greg Smith, it appears Perry has firmly committed to staying in the crowded field for the top job.

Of course, a defection from the field could occur if the 800-pound gorilla Zev Yaroslavsky decides he will try to succeed Antonio Villaraigosa.  You have to figure at least one of the candidates will realize it just is not worth burning money for a losing cause.

A runoff for mayor seems certain. Not surprisingly, radio host Kevin James stands a workman’s chance of making the cut since the status quo vote (public employee unions and those who vote on the basis of name recognition) will slice up the pie into generally small servings.

Third party candidates earned 45% of the vote in the 2009 mayoral race, with most of those going to alternative candidate Walter Moore. Trying to compare 2013 to 2009 would be comparing apples and oranges, but it is not unreasonable to assume James could pick up 25% of the vote - those who are completely disillusioned with anyone tainted by City Hall connections. That might be just enough to slip into the finals.

If anyone from the mayoral field would benefit from jumping into the Controller’s race, it would be James, who studied accounting before deciding on a career in the legal profession. He would be a formidable candidate and, in my view, has a far better understanding of finances than Zine or Brazeman.

The City Controller’s role is the least understood by most of the voters. Wendy Greuel, the present occupant of the office – and little more than an occupant, would like to keep it that way. If the voters ever scratched beneath the surface of Greuel’s reports they would understand how little she has accomplished when it comes to keeping the city’s financial house in order. Simply issuing audit reports is not synonymous with eliminating waste.

Greuel has also ignored the unfavorable effect on the city’s fiscal position of growing pension and health obligations that could swallow up over one-third of the general fund in a few short years.

Neither Zine nor Brazeman have the technical background for the job, but Brazeman would at least be more receptive to following sound, independent advice. He has also proven himself to be an advocate for the people.

Zine would likely take his marching orders from the usual suspects so as not to hinder an opportunity to add eight years to his accrued city civilian retirement benefits – a generous supplement to his existing LAPD pension.

While Greuel can best be described as “all hat and no cattle” for her performance as controller, Zine has proven himself [link] as no hat and all bull when it comes to dealing with the financial plight of the city.
In an effort to bolster his lackluster performance as a fiscal guardian, it seems he is now railing against pervasive cell phone usage by city employees.  Strange, since it seems Mr. Zine is one of the abusers of the privilege going back to 2003. [link]

So why is he only now pushing for a very modest 10% cut in cell phone costs?

Just as Greuel and other elected officials attach themselves to recommendations that offer high publicity but relatively little impact on costs, Zine recognizes that the ubiquitous of wireless usage will resonate with otherwise poorly informed voters. A classic case of form over substance. Unfortunately, that strategy works all too often in politics

So, those are my gut feelings about the 2013 campaign at this stage.

There is no use speculating about the City Attorney’s race at this point.

I also have another gut feeling.

Those well acquainted with me have known of my personal desire to run for controller.

Balancing my professional career versus the sacrifice of time and money to pursue an elected office is not a decision to be taken lightly.  It is even more difficult given my current extended travel demands.

I derive much fulfillment from serving clients. I am grateful to them for placing their trust in me.
Not running seems a logical choice for me, but it cannot erase the gnawing feeling in my gut to tackle a city government  that excludes the general public from the “city family” consisting of public unions, appointees and developers.

It is unlikely I will run, but neither is saying “no” at this point.

Regardless, I will at least attempt to influence the content and nature of the debate in this contest.

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as Treasurer for the Neighborhood Council Valley Village.  He blogs at Village to Village and can be reached at:  [email protected]) –cw

Tags: Los Angeles, City Controller, Wendy Greuel, Dennis Zine, Jan Perry, Walter Moore, Kevin James, Paul Hatfield, Zev Yaroslavsky

Vol 9 Issue 82
Pub: Oct 14, 2011