GELFAND’S WORLD - There is a lot of discussion right now about Diane Feinstein's decaying mental facilities and the calls by her congressional colleagues for her to retire. I suspect that she will eventually pull the plug on her career, but there needs to be an agreement in force before that time.
The immediate excuse for Feinstein's removal has been her absence from the Senate Judiciary Committee, where judge appointments are taken up. The Biden administration is trying to catch up with appointments in the attempt to undo some of the damage done by the Trump administration. (Trump supporters treat those appointments as the triumph of conservative thought.) Feinstein has now been replaced on this committee.
But there are a lot of other things that a U.S. Senator does in a chamber with a one vote majority. There is a concern that with Feinstein away for increasingly longer periods of time, that the loss of even one more senator to illness or injury would make the problem that much more serious.
So here is where things get a little sticky. Some of us are supporting Adam Schiff as the next senator from California. Some are supporting Katie Porter. Either would be an excellent choice, and depending on where you are coming from politically, the election of either one would send a strong message nationally.
But we also have the promise made by Governor Newsom that his next senatorial appointment would be a Black woman. And right now, there are supporters of Congresswoman Barbara Lee (from the bay area) who would like to see Feinstein retire and Lee appointed in her place.
California Democrats and independents alike ought to be calling on the governor for a modification in that old promise. It goes like this: We shouldn't really expect the governor to take sides between Schiff and Porter, one of whom would very likely win the primary were Feinstein to stay on until the next California primary election. But the governor should respect the views of hundreds of thousands of future primary voters by appointing a caretaker to Feinstein's seat in the likely event that she feels the pressure and actually resigns. The governor can even take a hint from Feinstein herself if she chooses to nominate a temporary successor.
There is another advantage to the idea of the caretaker appointment. The governor can avoid reducing the number of Democratic seats in the House of Representatives, which would be the case if there were an appointment of Schiff, Porter, or Lee. Let's make sure that whoever gets that caretaker appointment does not come from the ranks of our House delegation.
The governor can even keep his promise of appointing a Black woman in that caretaker position providing she not come from the House of Representatives. Everyone would understand that it would be a caretaker appointment, and if the appointee wants to run for the seat in 2024, so be it.
Of course, in the past, caretaker appointees have been expected to pledge not to run in the next election, but such pledges are not taken seriously, and the voters don't ordinarily penalize candidates for what they see as extorted promises.
And just in case you were wondering, No, I don't have any particular caretaker in mind. If the governor were to appoint someone from northern California, the two current frontrunners could run as proud southern Californians who have represented the entire state admirably in the House.
Lame Ducks in the City Council
It's been interesting to watch how the voters of Los Angeles have gradually been replacing the incumbents on the City Council. There is something about having a substantial fraction of City Council members indicted on serious felonies that seems to inspire such voting. I suspect the reasoning went something like this: How could all those Council members not have known about what was going on? A slightly more sophisticated group of voters recognized that council reps who weren't on the PLUM (Planning and Land Use) committee still voted for all those motions that came out of the committee.
If reformers and opposition candidates can keep up the pressure, we will have a near-complete turnover on the City Council following the 2024 elections.
Who's up for the March 5, 2024 Los Angeles City Council elections?
A reminder about what we can expect in the 2024 primaries: Every opponent will get to ask, "How could they not know about all the bribery and corruption and payoffs?" This also includes the Seabreeze scandal. And all these corrupt deals came through the PLUM committee, and the committee's recommendations went out to the council floor. And as other CW authors have pointed out repeatedly, our City Council has tended to vote in lockstep.
Who are the holdover city council members who will have to face the music in 2024? Who is termed out? Let's see who the lame ducks -- who may be sitting ducks in 2024 -- are on the council.
District 2 Paul Krekorian is termed out. Open seat
District 4 Nithya Raman got 52.9% in 2020; eligible to run
District 6 this was Nury Martinez; to be filled in a special election. Think of it as open
District 8 Marqueece Harris-Dawson eligible to run for reelection
District 10 Heather Hutt was appointed to Mark Ridley-Thomas' seat; 5 candidates
District 12 John Lee got 50.6% of the vote in 2020; has opposition
District 14 Kevin DeLeon got 52.6% of the vote in 2020; eligible; lots of opposition
Depending on how well the voters remember the felony trials and convictions, and whether any particular incumbent gets tied to those scandals, we could see a City Council emerge that is almost entirely bare of the representatives who were there a couple of years ago.
At the moment, we have quite a few new City Council members who are going to be extremely careful about voting for any zoning modifications. Whether any other substantial reform measures get put in place is anybody's guess, but I think it is a decent prediction that we are not going to see the City Council get behind zoning changes that would enable the construction of the next skyscraper.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)