EXCLUSIVE TO CITYWATCH - On May 12, LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino officially threw in the towel on his quixotic attempt to become mayor of Los Angeles and then endorsed the billionaire, Rick Caruso.
While this development is very revealing, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise since both of them are Democrats in name only. Buscaino has been masquerading as a Dem in his San Pedro district for the last decade and seems to have fooled both the labor unions and San Pedro Chamber of Commerce with his Democratic-lite policies.
He clearly came out of the closet last July when he jumped into Councilman Mike Bonin’s 11th district at the Venice Boardwalk to point out Bonin’s homeless problem, a problem for which Buscaino had largely ignored and deflected responsibility in his own district until he announced he was running for higher office.
Amazingly enough, on that very same July day last summer after all his grandstanding at the Boardwalk, I found him walking down San Pedro’s Beacon Street with a Fox News reporter showing of the newly cleared streets of tents, debris and unsheltered people ― cleared by magic trick. Except the trick was on anyone watching the Faux News and unaware that those tents and unsheltered folks were just a few blocks south on Gulch Road.
Years before, the Central Neighborhood Council had gone to war with Buscaino over the Tiny Homes concept, which he deplored, only for him to reverse course years later by adopting the concept and renaming them “palate shelters.”Yet, what is more telling about Buscaino’s true political leanings, is the fact that he’s made numerous expressions of support for labor on the waterfront to curry favor with the powerful International Longshore Warehouse Union, while allowing multiple gentrifying developments to be built with non-union contracts and very few low income units. He never once came to any of the district Democratic Clubs for their endorsements and he stopped attending any neighborhood council meetings to personally address their growing concerns.
As a community organizer, Buscaino is inept. He prefers appointing from a very narrow group of sycophants to push through an ethnic cultural designation to satisfy his Italian ethnocentricism while ignoring the 19 other ethnic groups in his district. He never once came to the neighborhood councils or any other community group, except the business leaders, for any pre-clearance of this cultural designation. Some have come to call that little area at 6th and Harbor Blvd Little Sicily because even some of the northern Italians here think of Sicily as being kicked by the boot of Italy. This little understood prejudice between the Napolitano Italians and the Sicilians by outsiders. Buscaino is Sicilian, which may among other things explain why his polling numbers, even in his hometown, never climbed out of the single digits.
Still, much like Caruso, Joe Buscaino changed party affiliation just before running for office here, knowing full well San Pedro, like Los Angeles, would never vote for a Republican again after Rudy Svoronich, Jr. back in the 1990s.
Some people have mumbled about this, but once he was seated in power, he used his office to bend the will of the San Pedro power structure to his version of “clean and safe” that had little to do with curing the underlying conditions of poverty and homelessness.
He even objected to the opening of a second shelter in San Pedro by Supervisor Janice Hahn right at the homeless epicenter on Beacon Street because it overshadowed his much more expensive bridge home project blocks away. It took Hahn just 90 days to open her shelter for approximately $200,000 while it was more than two years an a couple million to open Buscaino’s.
All of this inside the district drama might seem quaint to the rest of metropolitan Los Angeles except for the fact that Buscaino’s rule was based upon an autocratic Il Duce style (as in Il Duce 'The Leader' of Italian Fascism) mentality. One that was only enhanced by his side kick Branimir Kavartic who used his social media skills to generate slick weekly propaganda messages and completely eliminated the opposition media from even receiving press releases.
In essence the Buscaino’s reign in CD15 also became the ministry of public information that boosted the pro-Buscaino news and filtered anything negative-never mentioning a discouraging word.
One of the key principles of early fascism is to control the press or in this case to become the media and completely circumventing public debate or criticism. This is one of the 20 lessons found in Timothy Snyder’s book On Tyranny:
Lesson 2 – Defend an Institution. You have to defend all institutions. You cannot call an institution yours if you do not act on their behalf by protecting their rights. Examples of institutions are the courts or the media. Fundamentally, institutions cannot defend themselves. They have to be defended by the public. Being passive is not defending these institutions and will be preyed upon by people in authority who want to gain greater power. The loss of one institution will also lead to a domino effect. Unless you defend every institution and right, all institutions and rights will be under threat.
In the end, Buscaino’s “othering” of the homeless, his reliance and allegiance to the LAPD and his manipulation of the media for his political gain lean toward a kind of pre-fascism that is to be feared and defeated in its infancy before it takes root. That he has now found a new allegiance to Rick Caruso, one of Los Angeles’ billionaire oligarchs, this state of affairs can only be seen as more troubling if Caruso were to succeed.
(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.)