By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Dick Riordan did the right thing by California last week - counter to the urgings of rich business friends and certain ranking egos at the Los Angeles Times, he declined to run for governor.
You could follow his reasoning. Competing against Jane Harman and Al Checchi, Republican Riordan wouldn't get campaign money from Democrats. Running against Dan Lungren, he wouldn't get much from Republicans. Using his own millions, he'd be outspent - particularly by those two wealthier Democrats. One thing Dick Riordan understands is numbers. This time, they were against him.
This may have been the mayor's sagest determination since he decided, under health department pressure, to sanitize his Original Pantry restaurant last Thanksgiving.
But Riordan didn't want us to dwell on his decision to stick around, especially after the Times so ballyhooed his last-minute second thoughts.
So, just as our president tries to distract us from his mounting personal problems via his belligerence against Iraq, Dick
Riordan launched his own pre-emptive strike almost at the very moment he decided to renounce Sacramento. The target was his personal Saddam Hussein: the local school board.
In a meandering Times interview on the day he announced his decision not to run, Riordan termed all seven school-board members dolts: "They don't have the mental equipment, the experience equipment, to run [the district] right."
Speaking for a Times follow-up days later, Riordan flack Noelia Rodriguez maintained that the mayor had not, in fact, asserted what he'd actually said. "There was no intent to portray anybody as not being intelligent," Rodriguez asseverated.
I suppose if you read Riordan precisely, he hadn't exactly said the seven board members were too stupid to run a car wash. Just that they were too dumb to do what the people of Los Angeles had elected them to do. (By implication, of course, Riordan was insulting our voting citizenry as well. Well, hey, we know who they elected mayor.)
As it happened, Dick Riordan's indiscretion came at a delicate time in his relationship with the LAUSD. Superintendent Ruben Zacarias is now angling for rule changes that would favor local school control instead of central board oversight.
The mayor strongly favors these reforms. But unfortunately, they need approval from that same school-board sevensome Riordan characterized as morons. While Riordan-leaning members wore forced "Ha-ha, what a kidder!" grins, Barbara Boudreaux and Vicki Castro, at least, were reported to be seriously overheating. This situation by no means guarantees the board's acquiescence to surrendering some of its power.
The fundamental problem is that Riordan wants to run our schools. As governor, he could have had substantial influence, but under the state constitution, as mayor, he can't do that - let alone order the school board around. And as he demonstrated last week, his diplomatic capacities to persuade are in short supply.
Just one more self-inflicted shot in the mayor's foot, you might say. There are so many of them crowded in there already that Riordan practically clanks when he walks.
There's a way out of this mess, though. Now that he's out of the governor's race, Riordan can enter next year's LAUSD school-board contest.
Not that there aren't petty obstacles to this candidacy: For one thing, he'd have to resign as mayor, since both the city election codes and the 1990 ethics law unimaginatively forbid anyone holding two offices at once. And in order to run next year, he'd have to move to a district with a board seat up for election in 1999 - say, Barbara Boudreaux's. The mayor could thus easily swap his abode in media-infested Brentwood for a ridge-top Studio City view home.
These are minor matters when we consider what's at stake: the consummation of Riordan's blazing desire for a hands-on role in public education. On the school board, he wouldn't just have a bully pulpit. He'd have a real vote. And a chance to go down in history with similarly vocal, equally effective past school-board members. Flakes like Richard Ferraro, for instance.
The rest of us would get to put a real incumbent in the Mayor's Office: someone actually interested in running the city instead of the schools. Talk about win-win situations.
In as Few Words as Possible
The Daily News reported last week that members of Valley VOTE want the state to give them three more months to gather enough signatures to trigger a study of San Fernando Valley secession.
Upon which you ask yourself, if there aren't enough people rushing to sign the petition within the original three-month period allowed by law, just how many oppressed San Fernando Valley residents really do cower under the jackboot of downtown tyranny. Enough, I suppose, to staff Jeff Brain's Valley VOTE and the Daily News' own editorial page. But not enough to make Valley secession happen.
Local Government Incarnate
This column has supported the neighborhood-council aspect of charter reform. But I'd no idea what an inspiration local-government participation could really be until I took part in Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas' 8th District Empowerment Congress. The South-Central assembly has been around for six years. Its members are elected to two-year terms. It addresses local problems ranging from blight to jobs to the youth situation.