The last televised mayoral debate is tonight on KCAL, which means one more opportunity to point out that the candidates agree with each other on everything. That's been one of the recurring themes of the race: Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel are fundamentally the same.
The problem with that is not that it's wrong. Hell, we've written several versions of that ourselves. The problem is that it's useless. Voters who are trying to make up their minds don't need to know how alike the candidates are. They need to know the differences.
Here then is a user-friendly guide to the five key differences between Greuel and Garcetti. Clip it. Save it. Take it with you to the polls on May 21.
At last Tuesday's education debate, Greuel opened by saying, "There's probably no other subject where my opponent and I differ more than on the issue of education." That's probably true, if only because education is the most polarized issue on the landscape. Across the country, neoliberal reformers are doing battle with teachers' unions for control of school administrations, which forces everyone to pick a side. Back in January, Garcetti sided with the teachers, saying at a debate, "I'm sick of us bullying our teachers. We're so obsessed with firing the bad teachers, we forgot to lift up the good ones." That pushed Greuel into the arms of the reformers. Though she was tentative at first, she has embraced the reformers' cause more fully in recent weeks, bragging of her support from "parent revolutionaries" and criticizing Garcetti for his hesitation to back the "parent trigger" law, which allows parents to petition to take over schools. For the reformers, the only concern is that Greuel seems not as willing as the current mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, to take big risks for the cause. For the teachers' unions who backed Garcetti, the concern is that while he would be better than Greuel, he might not be the most loyal ally. He supports the most popular elements of education reform, like charter schools, and has called for a lessening of the conflict between the two sides.
Just by cutting a few checks to Greuel on the IBEW treasury, labor boss Brian D'Arcy has made himself the most controversial figure in the campaign. He's also made salaries at the Department of Water of Power the campaign's hottest issue. D'Arcy, who represents 90 percent of DWP workers, has invested nearly $4 million in Greuel. But while that has turned attention to his members' inflated salaries and the contract up for negotiation next year, salaries alone are not enough to explain his support for Greuel. After all, Garcetti also voted for IBEW's lavish contracts, and has shown little commitment to trimming DWP salaries if elected.
The deeper issue has to do with the green revolution that awaits the dirtiest utility in the West. The transition away from coal, and toward solar and wind, will happen regardless of who's mayor -- it's state law. But how it gets done is important, especially if you're the union boss who controls the utility. Garcetti is likely to rely more heavily on his environmental backers to guide the transition -- which could well bring him into conflict with D'Arcy. D'Arcy stands a good chance of winning such a battle, because he can threaten to turn off the lights by going on strike. With Greuel there would be no battle. She is much more likely to rely on D'Arcy and his lobbyist, Chris Modrzejewski, who has been an ardent supporter of her career and a frequent visitor to her office.