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“I would hate to see it becoming a trend — police chiefs endorsing political candidates — or for it to be seen as right, when it is so wrong,” McCue says. “As much as I respect the chief, by all means, please do leave for the private sector. The city budget is a ticking time bomb, so there isn’t a better time to pull a Palin and go.”
Jonathan Wilcox, a political consultant and communications professor at USC, thinks Bratton has been seeking an exit strategy ever since he got rattled by losing out to Arizona governor Janet Napolitano for the job as Secretary of Homeland Security.
“I think the chief thinks LAPD can only go downhill now, economically, in this city, and that being linked to Antonio Villaraigosa is a losing hand. Just ask ‘City Attorney’ Jack Weiss, an Antonio ally. The chief was wounded by his overt politicking, which didn’t go anywhere. He was wounded by openly backing Weiss. He had a short run of cold cards, and he left the table.”
A flurry of events, whether related or not, bolster this debate. First, the Brattons’ home went up for sale in early July — Bratton reportedly said he never used the pool. A few days later, the consent decree was lifted. That day, July 17, an L.A. Weekly employee saw Bratton and his wife, Klieman, having pasta and red wine at Osteria Mozza in Hollywood. Klieman was tearful, holding her hands over her face, wiping her eyes, and slumping forward with her face covered — as Bratton sat ramrod straight. An aide approached Klieman, helped her up, and they exited the restaurant. Bratton remained, quietly finishing his meal.
Less than three weeks later, Bratton’s departure was broken by KFI AM-640’s news reporter Eric Leonard and Los Angeles Times reporterJoel Rubin — just one day after a city pension–fund staffer, Sally Choi, gave a riveting series of answers to City Councilman Richard Alarcon about how fiscally imprudent the council’s budget-balancing plan is, to buy out workers using early retirements.
As Alarcon angrily browbeat Choi — a pension officer who by law cannot let politics influence her data — Choi repeatedly told Alarcon L.A. could be short billions of dollars if the council proceeds with its poorly researched plan. A video of the serene Choi staring down Alarcon became hot blogosphere fodder when former Los Angeles Daily News editor Ron Kaye posted it at ronkayela.com.
With “brownouts” already hitting fire stations to save money, the LAPD is seen as a department that would take serious hits if the worker-buyout idea falters. That was probably not the scenario Bratton had in mind for his next three years.
Mike Murphy, a national political consultant who helped to engineer Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rise to power, says that had Villaraigosa become governor, Bratton “would have been a serious and credible candidate for mayor if he had decided to run. He has political skills and a great story as the best police chief in the U.S. It would have been real.”
Instead, Bratton’s last day is Halloween, and city leaders are tussling over whether to try to choose a permanent replacement by then, or conduct a longer, nationwide search.
Correction: The date of the incident at Osteria Mozza has been changed to July 17, not July 30.