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Political Mudslinging

LA POLITICS - When Rick Caruso and Karen Bass started throwing mud at each other in their last debate for mayor of Los Angeles I could just feel it coming. 

This is where the political horse race turns into mud wrestling ― some people feel we deserve better and others just like to watch from ring side seats without getting splattered. The big takeaway from it all is that the University of Southern California is the epicenter of corruption. That corruption is perhaps more to the point of the mudslinging even if it’s not the main issue in the mayor’s race.  After all, USC was allegedly where H.R. Haldeman, who was made infamous in the Watergate scandal many years ago, got his start crafting political dirty tricks in student government elections there.

The reputations of politicians have been in decline ever since President Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace (we should have been so lucky with No. 45).

So political mudslinging has become as ubiquitous in politics as infotainment is to news. Is it all about ratings? One would hope that we could actually hear some real debate on the issues, but at least we are not being offered the QANON version of surrealism here in the Lost Empire of the Angels. 

Frankly though, Caruso represents the monied class of LA and Karen Bass does not. Caruso is a wannabe Democrat and Bass is the real thing no matter how many TV ads the former shows us with him standing around making friends with people of color.

Regardless, this election cycle is a curious one, but not because of what is being reported in corporate media here.  The real contests are down ballot between the establishment Democrats and the progressives. Republicans, not even moderate ones, aren’t in the equation except for Caruso. It’s a division that’s been boiling up since Bernie Sanders (that social democrat) ran for president and nearly beat Hilary Clinton in this county.  This is unusual because it places the Democratic party in a less than a liberal stance in a majority Democratic city and in a more conservative position than the progressive upstarts challenging the status quo. And progressives are not your traditional “liberals.”

These include Council District 1 candidate Eunisses Hernandez (who won in the primary), Council District 11 candidate Erin Darling, Council District 13 candidate Hugo Soto-Martinez, Faisal Gill for City Attorney, Kenneth Mejia for City Controller and of course Danielle Sandoval running against Tim McOsker in CD 15.  The LA power structure has been wedded to what some would call the Neoliberal model since the end of the Tom Bradley era ― a city run by big monied interests of development, industry and finance. And the results have created a chasm between the rich and working class and working poor that resembles much of the rest of America for many of the same economic reasons―income inequality.

What is shocking here in the LALA Land of liberalism is that neoliberalism has failed to adequately address the homeless crisis, port pollution and infrastructure traffic congestion, as it has elsewhere, try as they may.  And  LA residents  have noticed and are not impressed with the establishment. They know it’s time for a change. But now they are being asked to choose:  more cops or less homeless people?

On the one hand, the more rightwing leaning Dems like Joe Buscaino are clamoring for more enforcement on homeless encampments (something he’s been prone to his entire time in office). But now in his waning days in office, he has succeeded in convincing the majority of the LA City Council to vote with him. This is a sad ending as Buckets Buscaino has never proved that chasing the homeless around the block has ever worked.

Now Buckets has an heir-apparent in Tim McOsker, who he has recently endorsed against the progressive outsider, Danielle Sandoval. Let the mudslinging begin.

Last week, David Zahnizer at the LA Times, wrote a scathing piece accusing Sandoval of wage theft from a restaurant she ran and closed some eight years ago. Just how did Zahnizer discover this? He didn’t say, but more than likely than not by some opposition research dropped off by a McOsker operative. You have to ask yourself, “how is it that a wage claim from that long ago wasn’t resolved by the Labor Board before now?” I’m curious and skeptical as it appears to have only recently been filed. 

I got a call from someone during the primary asking about one of the other candidates ― the guy wouldn’t say who he was working for but….

So now Sandoval has been slandered in the press, the same one that endorsed her by the way, and the response is her campaign revealing McOsker’s lobbying business at the TraPac terminal that eliminated hundreds of union jobs with automation. This is all about the union votes. He denies this of course, but there is documentation and, in all fairness, we’ve let her explain her case in these pages because it’ll take weeks before the LA  Times does a follow up.

Let’s get to the point though. This isn’t about the mud.  This is about  power and which direction the future of Los Angeles and CD15 is headed. From the multi-million-dollar port terminals, the billions in international trade and its largest source of air pollution ― the Port of Los Angeles  is the epicenter of economic and environmental injustice for the entire city. It’s worse than Venice; worse than Echo Park or East LA. Who is going to fix this?

Before writing this column today, I got a phone call from one of McOsker’s “friends,” a guy who never calls me, asking if I was switching my endorsement of Sandoval after the Times story ran. I really didn’t have time to explain why my answer was “NO,” but I guess he’ll just have to read it here.

(James Preston Allen, founding publisher of the Los Angeles Harbor Areas Leading Independent Newspaper 1979- to present, is a journalist, visionary, artist and activist. Over the years Allen has championed many causes through his newspaper using his wit, common sense writing and community organizing to challenge some of the most entrenched political adversaries, powerful government agencies and corporations.)