We Endorse

Illustration by Mr. Fish

City Council, 10th District

We tried. Really. But we’re at a loss. Herb Wesson brings knowledge, experience and clout as the former chief of staff for this district and as the former speaker of the state Assembly, but we just can’t bring ourselves to endorse him for the City Council. That’s because we can’t back a guy who won’t sit still long enough to do the job. He was raising money for a run for state Senate, but everyone knew he really wanted to be county supervisor when the job opens up in 2008. Then this seat became available with the resignation of his former aide, Martin Ludlow, and Wesson wanted it. Okay so far. But Wesson pretty much eliminated his own competition. Remember that the capable and promising Denise Fairchild, instead of running as she had once intended, found herself, on the last day to file, taking a position with the Villaraigosa administration.

After Ludlow’s abbreviated term, this district in the heart of Los Angeles needs some commitment and continuity, and Wesson simply won’t make a pledge to stick around when it comes time to run for supervisor. “There’s no long-range planning in politics,” he says, but that’s just a self-fulfilling prophecy. He could plan now to give the 10th District 10 full years, and if he does a good job there’s nothing that could stop him. But instead, he may be out of here in three. That continues a dubious tradition in this term-limit era: The City Council has become something of a politician’s green room, a waiting area, a place to cool your heels until the job you really want becomes available.

So what about the other guys? Robert Serrano started his own private security company, and he does touch on some important points when he calls for better public safety in the district. But most of his ideas are just ideas. A Crenshaw monorail? Great! How do we pay for it? Break up the LAPD among the council districts? Okay. How will that be better? Ideas are just a starting point. A candidate has to demonstrate the ability to get others to follow his vision, and Serrano isn’t there.

Barry Levine is disgusted with the role of money in politics, and we don’t blame him. And there’s nothing about his career — photographer, with a specialty in shooting political events — that disqualifies him for the office. We admire his, well, chutzpah in campaigning for this office, but he hasn’t shown a deep knowledge of his district or the people he wants to serve.

The 10th District deserves better than these guys, but unless the world turns upside down, they’re getting Herb Wesson, who as speaker doled out public cash with no oversight to political friends like Ludlow, Tony Cardenas and Nate Holden’s son for “consulting” contracts. Wesson has the opportunity to trim his sails and pour himself into the needs of this district for the remaining two years of this term, and the full four-year term beyond that — and then the one beyond that, but he isn’t likely to do so.

City Council, 14th District

Hats off to all 10 candidates who are vying to fill Antonio Villaraigosa’s final two years on the City Council. But only partway off. We admire their commitment, but none presents the full package.

The best we’ve got are Nick Pacheco and Jose Huizar, and we’re going with Huizar. Not that Pacheco was a bad councilman during his first term, before he was thrown out on his ear in 2003 by the campaigning phenomenon that is (now mayor) Villaraigosa. He got the ball rolling on alley cleanups, street paving, parks and athletic fields — the kind of City Council bread-and-butter projects that other districts have long taken for granted. He is disarmingly straightforward about his goofs and gaffes, of which he had plenty during his first go-round. He was a genius at finding pots of money hidden in the recesses of the city budget and directing them to improvements for his district.

What he offers now is more of the same, which is fine — but it’s not enough. This district, which runs from storied Boyle Heights and parts of downtown to the small-town-like neighborhoods of El Sereno, Highland Park and Eagle Rock and the woodsy bastion of Mount Washington, is laden with potential. It needs a council representative of vision to bring it along.

Many of the district’s challenges over the next decade will be grounded in land use, and as a land-use lawyer with a master’s degree in planning, Huizar has the knowledge to pair with his smarts. Should this area’s open spaces be given the same respect as the oak-studded hills and canyons of Pacific Palisades? Will the aching need for affordable housing mean further densification of already crowded neighborhoods? Will Huntington Drive surrender its decrepit auto-body shops only to make way for chain stores and big boxes? What about Colorado Boulevard? César Chávez? York?

But does Huizar have the vision? We admit to falling back on hope here. We’d sure like it better if he stopped trumpeting his good relationship with Villaraigosa, against whom he campaigned in 2003. We picked Villaraigosa then, too, but the vision we were hoping for was kept in check until he became mayor.

As school-board president, Huizar did a decent job of combating the bureaucracy, winning accountability in the contracting process, and working to build schools and shrink class size. We like the idea of Pacheco as a thorn in Villaraigosa’s side, just to keep the mayor on his toes, but it’s not enough. We hope, and expect, that Huizar will grow into the job.

L.A. Unified School District Measure Y: $3.985 billion school bond

Is the L.A. Weekly really opposing a school bond? Yeah, the L.A. Weekly is really opposing a school bond. First we had Proposition BB in 1997 to begin fixing and building schools for the first time in many decades, and it was about time. Okay, it wasn’t enough, so we did it again. And again. And now, a fourth time? The school-district honchos tell us this extra money, which they didn’t think they needed before but now think they do, to continue growing the largest public-works project in the nation, would end that year-round schedule and end involuntary busing. We’d like the various contractors who are in favor of this bond to finish the schools they are building now before starting new projects, especially since the student population in the LAUSD is in a steady decline. You can always come back to us for more later on. You always have.

State ballot measures.

Proposition 73: Abortion notification. NO
If your teenage daughter gets pregnant and is about to have an abortion, don’t you want her to tell you? Don’t you want the physician who is going to perform the procedure to tell you, at least 48 hours before it takes place? Of course you do. But let’s take it further. You don’t want her to get pregnant in the first place. You don’t want her having sex. You and she talk about this kind of thing, and that’s great. So shouldn’t you vote for the “Parent’s Right to Know and Child Protection Initiative”? No, because you and your daughter don’t need it. But girls who can’t talk to their parents, for whatever reason, still need to be able to talk to their doctors about their bodies without worrying that their family will find out and pressure them into bearing a child against their will. Good parent-child communication is essential, but it can’t be legislated.

Proposition 74: Teacher probationary period, also known as tenure. NO
A probationary period for a new hire might not be a bad idea, just to make sure the employee didn’t forget to include something important on the résumé, like “raving lunatic.” Thirty days sounds about right. Unless you’re a teacher, in which case we’ll make it — whoa! Two years! Okay, they’re with kids every day, so let’s play it safe. But to encourage more good people to become teachers, maybe we should change it to — yikes! Five years of job insecurity? That’s what Proposition 74 would do, because Governor Schwarzenegger knows that when schools are underfunded and overcrowded, it’s got to be because we just make it too easy for people to become underpaid teachers. He’s wrong on this one, just like he is with the other ballot initiatives he’s pushing.

Proposition 75: Public worker union dues restrictions. NO
In 1998 Californians rejected a ballot measure that would have blocked unions from spending an employee’s dues money to campaign for candidates or lobby for legislation that labor leaders believe is important. Now we have this one, which is pretty much the same except that it applies only to public employees. These workers currently can opt out of paying their union to do political lobbying and campaigning. Under Proposition 75, they would have to opt in — giving the edge to corporations that do not, after all, give their shareholders the power to opt out of having their investment used for anti-labor lobbying.

Proposition 76: State budget reform. NO
The state budget is a mess. Proposition 76 would make it messier, by giving the governor extraordinary executive powers to cut spending, even under a budget that is already approved and signed into law. And the Legislature would be unable to stop him. It would also permit the governor to roll back Proposition 98, a 1988 voter-approved constitutional amendment that guarantees a spending floor for public schools. This isn’t the way to go.

Proposition 77: Redistricting. NO
The Democrats and the Republicans divvy legislative and congressional seats between them to guarantee each other safe territory at election time. Only a handful of districts are ever really up for grabs, meaning the real decisions are made not by the full electorate in the general election, but by primary voters when they choose their nominee. Or even earlier, when party bosses anoint their candidates. In addition to the lack of choice, voters get districts drawn in the shapes of various circus animals. So why not break up this insiders’ game by giving line-drawing duties to a panel of nonpartisan, pure-as-the-driven-snow superheroes, also known as retired judges? Several reasons. Under this plan, the district boundaries would be set only after national parties spend millions, perhaps billions, to persuade voters to adopt (or reject) a proposal for district lines. Then the court hearings. Then back to the judges to try again, even though they already submitted their best effort. Some repair work is needed on districting, but this isn’t it. Back to the drawing board.

Proposition 78: Prescription drug discounts, pharmaceutical industry version. NO
Hey! This would allow drug companies to give some people discounts on costly prescription drugs, if they felt like it! That would be so very nice of them! The only purpose of this proposition is to cancel more generous Proposition 79.

Proposition 79: Prescription drug ­discounts, consumer version. YES
Like 78, this one gives California the clout to negotiate deep drug discounts with the big pharmaceutical companies. The difference is that this one reaches far more low-income people who need prescription drugs. It also carries an enforcement stick that in effect locks drug companies out of the discount program if they don’t come through with the best prices.

Proposition 80: Electricity re-regulation. YES
This would finally throw in the towel on the disaster that was the state Legislature’s 1996 energy deregulation program. You know — rolling blackouts, a sudden scarcity of power. There would be some negative consequences, like limiting the options that many institutional electricity purchasers still have when deciding when to buy and how much to pay. But consumers would once again be protected from wild market fluctuations. The measure also requires major steps forward on renewable energy programs.

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