By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
California State Controller Kathleen Connell is the green-eyeshade candidate in the field, who pledges to use her experience as the state’s chief financial officer to audit the bejesus out of every L.A. governmental agency. She is this election’s business Democrat: socially liberal, fiscally conservative, the single mom with six securities licenses.
If elected, Connell would be returning to City Hall after a 15-year absence. While still in her 20s, she went to work for Tom Bradley early in his administration; she basically put together the city’s housing program in the late 1970s. Today, she supports the demands of housing activists for the creation of an affordable-housing trust fund — but she’s resolutely opposed to funding it through a fee on major developers, just as she’s reluctant to require employers who receive city assistance to pay their workers a living wage. She’s concerned such provisions would prove onerous to small business — so concerned, apparently, that she doesn’t seem the least bit eager to apply them even to megalarge businesses. Her plans for creating good new jobs in fields like biomedical research are commendable, and, like most candidates, she’s committed to extending and improving after-school programs throughout the LAUSD. But for L.A.’s actual, existing low-wage and largely Latino working class, she has little to offer.
With her promises of performance audits hither and yon, Connell often sounds like she’s running for city controller rather than mayor. Her experience as a public servant is considerable but as a political leader functioning in the public spotlight, she’s still a novice. For all her years in public positions, she’s more of a tabula rasa than any of the other candidates. We suspect the city could do a lot worse than have her as mayor. We’re confident it could also do better.
Like Connell, veteran City Councilman Joel Wachs is a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. Unlike Connell, his tabula is as un-rasa as they come: Now in his 30th year on the council, Wachs has always had a knack for the hot issue, even for getting on local TV newscasts. In the late ’70s, he was the father of the city’s rent-control ordinance. Ten years ago, in the wake of the Rodney King beating, he was, alas, a leading force on the council for reinstating Daryl Gates as chief (hard to say if he was pandering to his conservative district or, worse, actually believed that Gates should stay). Four years ago, he was a key swing vote in favor of the city’s living-wage ordinance. And two years ago, he was the scourge of the Staples deal — raking city officials (including Soboroff) over the coals for giving hundreds of millions of dollars to some of the richest developers on the planet.
Wachs’ opposition to such developer subsidies has won him the support of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association, but not only them: He’s on the mark when he argues that subsidies for stadiums, office buildings and the like seldom produce the benefits that their developers promise. In recent years, he sounds, if anything, ultraleft on the question of whether such developers should be required to pay a living wage in return for their subsidies. Just pass an ordinance, says Wachs. Don’t make it a condition of one deal; make it a requirement for all deals.
Problem is, this excellent idea is one that Wachs has never presented to his council colleagues. Problem is, that’s par for the course. After the cameras turn away, Wachs has trouble in the follow-through department. For a decade now, he has been the council’s chief proponent of neighborhood councils, and he gets some of the credit for the provisions in the new city charter that mandate their establishment. Over that decade, however, his council colleague Mark Ridley-Thomas has put together a dandy Empowerment Congress in his own district, and other members have experimented with proto-councils here and there. Wachs has done nothing. He is a formidable critic and gadfly and publicist of causes, but nothing in his record suggests he’d be much of a builder, or even an administrator. His fiscal conservatism also aligned him with Mayor Riordan against the bus drivers during last year’s MTA strike, and while we don’t doubt there are efficiencies to be realized at the MTA and throughout city government, we don’t think they include booting city workers from L.A.’s already too-small middle class.
Wachs would be an intelligent, socially enlightened, arts-friendly and generally entertaining mayor. While he’d be entertaining us, however, we’re not sure who’d be running City Hall.
James Kenneth Hahn has been a citywide official for 20 years now — he was elected controller in 1981 and city attorney, which position he still holds, in 1985 — and yet, to much of the city, he’s still best known as Kenny Hahn’s son. The late, legendary county supervisor served four full decades on the Board of Supes, and Jim Hahn still dwells, apparently comfortably, in his shadow.
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