(Raphael “Raphe” Sonenshein is executive director of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs and has headed charter-reform and neighborhood council review commissions. A California State University political science professor, Sonenshein is also an author whose books have analyzed racial and reform politics. He spoke to Frying Pan News about what he believes are the biggest tasks facing L.A.’s next mayor – as well as telling reporter Marc Haefele what candidates Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel should avoid during the campaign before the May 21 runoff election.)
The Biggest Job
The next mayor has to reinvent his office as an office of strength, because just being elected doesn’t hand you that. Once you are in you will be dealing with very powerful forces of the community and very powerful forces at City Hall —
Let the hand-wringing begin! In last week’s primary election, just over 16 percent of Los Angeles voters turned out at the polls, less than four years ago, which was less than the election before that, which was less than the election before that – and on and on. In Southern California municipalities – big city or small – elections draw about 20 percent of the vote. This is a problem in a democracy.
Low turnouts mean that more and more money gets spent on fewer and fewer voters, and when only a small minority of voters go to the polls, elected officials make major policy decisions based on a narrower group of constituents. In a democratic society, where people are empowered to make decisions that affect their lives, fewer voters mean diminished participation and less accountability.
In the early 1980s, when reformers first took a majority of seats on the City Council in Santa Monica,
But what does it really mean to be a good fiscal watchdog in the city of Los Angeles? As a long-time city commissioner and community leader, I have found that the biggest demonstration of strong leadership is the willingness to stand up to the powerful corporate interests and their lobbyists, who continue to dominate most of the decisions made at City Hall.
In 2012, “clients” spent more than $35 million on lobbyists hired to influence City Hall decision-makers. For-profit corporations accounted for more than $31 million of that. Unions spent less than $700,000 on paid lobbyists. The list of companies paying lobbyists to represent their interests at City Hall is a Who’s Who of corporate America.
We present the following guide to show where three front-running mayoral candidates stand on issues affecting jobs and the local economy. Except as noted, all quotes are drawn from our interviews with the candidates. (Jan Perry did not respond to interview requests.) Please note that Frying Pan News does not endorse candidates.
Jobs are extremely important but depend on a revitalized business sector.
“The first thing on my agenda is putting this city back to work, making City Hall work for everybody but then also getting jobs back here — good, middle-class, decent-paying jobs with benefits.”
“I will be the jobs tsar. I will be the person in the city that is going to go out and talk to businesses and encourage them to move to the city of Los Angeles and to grow.”
“We have a shockingly high unemployment rate – it’s 50 percent higher than the national average.
Yesterday we published Part One of a conversation with mayoral hopeful Kevin James, continuing our interviews with Los Angeles’ front-running candidates. James is an entertainment lawyer and talk-show host, who has previously served as a U.S. prosecutor and AIDS Project Los Angeles co-chairman. (The series’ interviews, which have been edited for clarity, include Eric Garcetti, Parts One and Two, and Wendy Greuel, Parts One and Two.)
Frying Pan News: Your campaign’s main selling point is that you are not a City Hall insider, that you have no institutional connection to the city’s budget problems. Other than this, why should Angelenos vote for you?
Kevin James: Neighborhoods across our city believe that this City Council has shut them out, that they don’t have a voice.