L.A. is a city of steamroller politics and barely aware voters. It is exceedingly difficult for everyday citizens to beat an incumbent running for Los Angeles City Council or Los Angeles Unified School Board. It is almost as difficult to win an empty seat on either body unless you are the one being showered with special-interest cash.
Today, despite all those odds, Los Angeles residents with compelling things to say are running for city council and school board, even though they do not have rich special interest groups backing them, or entrenched political party cash propping them up.
Below are the candidates on today's ballot who are not backed by the usual suspects, probably did not stuff your mail box with four-color glossy ads paid for by developers, unions or political insiders, and yet still might have something to offer the future of Los Angeles. Call them the little guys, but remember that most of them are busy people with full-time jobs who didn't need the grief of running long-shot campaigns, yet did it anyway.
Los Angeles Unified School Board Election:
-- Louis Pugliese is a national board-certified teacher with a long history in the classroom, remarkably unlike most of the people now serving on the troubled LAUSD Board of Education. Pugliese taught at Southern California grade schools for 15 years. Pugliese managed to cobble together a respectable, if small, campaign staff of volunteers who worked out of an obscure building in Tujunga, making phone calls to thousands of registered voters. At candidate forums, he spoke in-depth about the problems facing schools. The big money did not flow to Pugliese, and campaign consultants say that's because he is not an insider in Mayor's Antonio Villaraigosa's political machine.
-- Mike Stryer, also running for the LAUSD school board, would be an very unusual addition in that he has a working knowledge of business and finance, two gaping areas in which the current school board has no demonstrable knowledge. Stryer has no big money behind him because, political consultants say, he was not the pick of this region's big teacher's union. Stryer kept his face out there at panels and candidate forums, despite the lack of big special interest cash behind him. He didn't veer from his message that the billions of dollars spent annually by LAUSD need vastly better oversight and aren't getting it.
Los Angeles City Council (only the odd-numbered seats are on the ballot):
District 1: Jesse Rosas certainly has the best poster created by any of the independent (as in not backed by huge special interests) candidates running today. The most interesting criticism of Rosas on this Flickr page is that he is "more of a family man than a polished politician." Rosas has been pushing the idea that City Hall is way too hostile to small businesses.
District 3: Jeff Bornstein is a small business owner who ran for this seat once before, and other than placing signs around Woodland Hills and other parts of the West Valley, has made very little noise, even in the content-hungry blogosphere.
District 5: Up for grabs. See L.A. Weekly's rundown of the slow-growth crowd vying for office in this congested and overbuilt area of the Westside.
District 7: L.A. Weekly this week explains why the unopposed incumbent, Richard Alarcon, a perpetual candidate best known for jumping from one office to another, is one of the highest paid city council members in the United States. Don't miss this look at Alarcon's behavior while in office.
District 9: L.A. Weekly this week takes a hard look at the unopposed incumbent Jan Perry, and her behavior in office, in this fascinating insider peek at how City Hall is really run. Definitely take time to read "Los Angeles on $300,000 a Year: Why next week's L.A. City Council 'coronation' Will Cost You More Than Money."
District 11: Harry Craig Wilson is an employee of the Department of Water and Power who has actually gotten a few gasps from Westside audiences for saying insulting things about Villaraigosa and taking an exceptionally hard line on illegal immigration.
District 13: Gary Slossberg has been a surprisingly sophisticated candidate, nabbing an extensive interview on NBC-4, getting lots of YouTube stuff out there, and sounding downright peeved about what is happening to Hollywood and other parts of Los Angeles. He has focused on the City Council's practice under Villaraigosa of jamming neighborhoods with dense, high-end luxury apartment complexes and flashing digital billboards that are visible for up to four miles and even shine through closed curtains.
District 15: Chris Salabaj has been courting voters of this far-flung sector of the city. At candidate forums, such as a San Pedro-area event in which almost every measure and candidate was later described by an unusually detail-oriented blogger, he takes aim at the direction the current City Council has been moving on taxes and pet projects.