By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
O’Brien’s record is impressive, but his analysis of the centralization of power in L.A. and how to democratize the city is what sets him apart. San Pedro, after all, is our colony to the south, so it may breed more systemic thinking than is common about L.A., at least among activists. O’Brien’s chief priority is organizing — at the workplace, in the community; it is the key to enabling communities like San Pedro to have some say over the harbor and the other mega-institutions that loom over it. He sees Janice Hahn as the personification of the city’s power elite, and Cepeda as the embodiment of the forces that would democratize the city — and we think he’s right in both instances. He sees himself, however, as somewhat more experienced than Cepeda in leading that fight, and we think he’s right there, too.
We suspect Cepeda has a better chance of making it into the runoff against Hahn than O’Brien does; a vote for Cepeda is eminently defensible. But we want to call O’Brien, win or lose, to the city’s attention: He’s a visionary and a pragmatist who can only enhance the conversation on where this city is — and should be — headed.
LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION
This year’s school-board races are Round Two of Mayor Riordan’s campaign to put his personally selected candidates in charge of the city’s school district. Unlike 1999, Riordan is going head-to-head against United Teachers of Los Angeles in an unabashed attempt to weaken the union’s influence and maximize his own. Also unlike 1999, when the Weekly endorsed the mayor’s choices, we are far less impressed with his slate this time around. William F. Buckley once famously remarked that you could find a better mayor of New York than John Lindsay by simply picking someone at random from the Manhattan phone book. Buckley’s crack seems to have directly inspired Riordan’s method of candidate selection: Where did he find these guys?
Besides, after two years of watching Riordan trying to dictate district policy from his prompter’s box, we’re not persuaded that the district will be in better shape if an even larger majority of members jump to his call. If Riordan truly believes the mayor should run the school district, he should lobby to change state law so that the authority is statutorily the mayor’s. Instead, should his candidates prevail, we will have the unhappy spectacle of a board beholden to a couple of rich private citizens — chiefly, ex-Mayor Riordan and Eli Broad — who funded their campaigns. And under what theory of democracy, we’d like to know, should the new board pay more attention to the former than the sitting mayor?
Herewith, our choices in this year’s school-board races:
DISTRICT NO. 2 — NO ENDORSEMENT
District 2 starts downtown and runs south and east, hitting parts of East L.A. as well as such separate cities as South Gate and Huntington Park. Incumbent Victoria Castro declined to seek reelection, and, barring a meteor strike, the candidate who will win here is Jose Huizar, who has collected a host of endorsements, including those of Mayor Riordan and the Eastside Latino political establishment. His sole opponent, videographer Ralph Cole, has commendably progressive impulses and ideas on how to better teach math, but he is not running so much as a gadfly campaign for the seat. And the mayor is financing a campaign for Huizar, perhaps to instill a sense of obligation in the presumptive victor.
Like the mayor’s other endorsees, Huizar, a 32-year-old land-use attorney, has no children and no particular experience in education. He does have some civic experience, having worked as legal counsel for several L.A.-area cities and also having served on the East Area Planning Commission. For Huizar, the school board could be the first stop in a promising and even productive political career.
Whatever Huizar’s merits, however, the utterly undemocratic nature of his selection prevents us from endorsing him. Early on, a handful of Eastside Latino power brokers settled on Huizar, even before Riordan did. Then, according to sources close to Riordan, the mayor helped out by talking another possible candidate out of the contest. If the mayor’s goal is to give voters choices, he’s done precisely the reverse in this race. Riordan certainly accomplished one thing, however: He avoided the challenge — and cost — of having to do battle in three school-board races at once.
DISTRICT NO. 4 — MARLENE CANTER
The race in District 4, which covers the Westside of Los Angeles and much of the western San Fernando Valley, ä pits incumbent Valerie Fields against challengers Matthew Rodman and Marlene Canter. Rodman’s candidacy is being lavishly financed by Coalition for Kids, Mayor Riordan’s fund-raising vehicle. Until recently, incumbent Fields had the mayor’s support, but he dumped her over her support for the teachers’ pay raise in the new district contract. Now, her core backing comes from the teachers union, which will muster plenty of foot soldiers, but not nearly as much cash as the mayor. Canter, a wealthy businesswoman, will depend heavily on a self-financed campaign — a rarity in school-board elections.