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
His tenure as city attorney has been notably low-key. He has instigated a number of civil suits against gangs, and joined a number of civil suits against gun and tobacco manufacturers. Though he’s served opposite several D.A.s who had active environmental-crime units, Hahn’s office has tended not to go after questionable environmental practices; he’s been MIA on issues like Playa Vista and the L.A. River restoration. His most notable sin of omission has been his failure to notify the LAPD when its officers were sued for misconduct. His most notable attempt to rectify this was his drafting of the city’s consent decree with the federal government to achieve police reform — a task he undertook, and completed, over the opposition of Mayor Riordan.
Hahn is the one candidate who gives LAPD Chief Parks the benefit of the doubt on the police-reform issue, calling the chief “fearless in rooting out police corruption.” Hahn’s chief base in this election is the African-American community, much of which still supports the chief, and Hahn hasn’t strayed from the community line. Otherwise, he’s a down-the-line Democratic moderate — supported the janitors’ strike and the living-wage ordinance, supports the affordable-housing trust fund but remains reluctant to ask major developers to pay for it. No candidate can claim the support of more old-time L.A. power brokers — from Warren Christopher, Mickey Kantor and Ted Stein to onetime Riordan consigliere Bill Wardlaw, whose centrist politics and incessant calculation guide the Hahn campaign today, even as they are likely to guide a Hahn administration, should ä such a thing come to pass, tomorrow. The lobbyists and deal makers of the ancien régime back Hahn, attorney George Kieffer recently noted, because he will “not surprise them with his viewpoint or behavior.” In a Hahn City Hall, the operatives of L.A.’s permanent government — pro-developer, pro–building trades and determined to smash all grassroots attempts to derail the deals of the civic elite — renew their lease on power. Be still, our beating hearts.
Xavier Becerra is an accomplished liberal congressman from a district just north and east of downtown, who does not seem ready — in terms of programs or politics — to run for mayor. Outside his congressional district and a circle of Latino activists and leaders, Becerra remains substantially unknown not just to L.A. voters but to L.A.’s political elite. In his eight years in Congress, he has not really gotten himself around town, nor does he command the resources now to pop up on our television screens with anything near the frequency required to be a serious candidate for mayor.
Becerra’s head seems stuck in Congress, too. He has a keen understanding of many of L.A.’s problems, but the solutions he suggests tend to require congressional and presidential approval. His solution to the housing crisis is to get tax credits written into the Bush tax bill. A course of less resistance might be a developer fee right here in L.A., but that’s not a course Becerra seems inclined to chart. When he discusses what ails the city, he comes back repeatedly to its failure to get as much as it could from D.C.; Sacramento County, he points out, pulls down $6 in federal funding for every one that L.A. obtains. But for his first-term support for NAFTA, Becerra’s amassed a sterling liberal record on the Hill, most especially on questions of immigrants rights — but it’s the Hill he looks to for solutions, and the Hill that he knows how to work. Los Angeles and Becerra remain mysteries to each other, and the mystery of why he’s running — unless it’s to derail the candidacy of his onetime friend Antonio Villaraigosa — is the deepest mystery of all.
The candidacy of Antonio Villaraigosa, by contrast, represents the political expression of the most notable and successful attempts of recent years to solve the city’s most intractable problems right here in L.A., rather than hope that Gray Davis or George W. will ride to our rescue. In his candidacy, the campaigns for economic and environmental justice, for a living wage and civilian review of the police have joined together to put their mark on the city — much as the local civil rights coalition of the ’60s and ’70s only consolidated its power when Tom Bradley was elected mayor.
If elected, Villaraigosa would be, hands down, the most progressive mayor in the history of the city — just as he was the most progressive Assembly speaker in the history of the state. This onetime president of the ACLU of Southern California has championed a civilian review board, protection for whistle blowers, and other key elements of any successful police-reform effort, for the past quarter-century. (He is also the only candidate to have condemned as wrong the LAPD’s fatal shooting of the homeless, middle-aged, diminuitive Margaret Mitchell; astonishingly, the other candidates all decline to do so.) This onetime community organizer who worked with the legendary Bert Corona in East L.A. knows that neighborhood councils will only take shape in historically underorganized working-class communities if the city provides the organizers to make it happen. In this particular, Villaraigosa is the only candidate who is committed to moving L.A.’s experiment in neighborhood democracy from the rhetorical to the real. That commitment is also clear in his efforts to stop the development of Playa Vista and abate the noise at Van Nuys Airport; it’s why a number of conservative Valley homeowner leaders support him despite his manifestly progressive politics.