In this metropolis of 3.8 million, where most voters barely notice L.A. City Council elections, suddenly there's a slurve in the race. (In baseball, that's a slider thrown like a curve ball, confusing the hell out of everyone.)
In this case, that slurve is Jay Beeber, the folk hero who proved that L.A.'s $465 red-light camera tickets were a fiscal scam, forcing the City Council to dismantle the widely hated cameras. Beeber has just announced, on TalkRadio 790 KABC's Doug McIntyre Show, that he's running for L.A. City Council District 4.
Beeber is an authentic activist. But he and a raft of 13 others fighting for this open seat face a District 4 curse: The job has been won by a well-connected City Hall insider in every election since District 4 was created. That was in 1925. Can an outsider with citywide appeal break the 90-year streak?
Beeber tells us “Yes, the status quo candidates have the Democratic Party behind them” in City Council races, which are supposed to be non-partisan. “And they have raised a lot of money. But I really think I have the people, whether they appreciate the red light camera victory or my work to reform the system inside the L.A. Parking Violations Bureau.”
The softspoken, pony-tailed Beeber is a social liberal and fiscal conservative. For years he managed an animal hospital in New Jersey where his goal, he says, was “to be the best, hire the best people and have the best doctors, so people choose to come to you.”
Beeber's theory of holding office goes like this:
“In government, your customers are the people and you are providing them services. This city has been on the wrong track for a really long time and many people don't ask 'Why?'. They just accept. Like the news that they're replacing city water mains on a 300-year cycle. The people who run the city think its 'their' government, and yet a lot of them have never managed or run anything on their own — and done it well. I have.”
The election in 2015 will fill the City Council District 4 job being vacated (due to term limits) by hail-fellow-well-met handshaker Tom LaBonge.
LaBonge leaves office having achieved very few big initiatives that aimed to improve L.A. — which makes LaBonge not a failure, but a standard performer on this particular City Council.
Primarily government insiders and lifelong politicians, many L.A. City Council members are retreads from the Sacramento legislature. A few, like political lifers Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian, were nearby suburbanites who moved to L.A. to run for the lucrative council job.
Between them, the 15 council members have little life experience negotiating the world of private jobs, entrepreneurship, and economic competition.
Beeber, a libertarian with a small “l,” is a quiet negotiator whose latest mild-mannered campaign aims to change City Hall's broken system for ticketing and towing cars. He's already begun talks with key city officials and some of them seem to be listening.
As the Weekly has reported, the widely reviled LA Parking Violations Bureau has ignored judges' rulings against it and is the subject of a class action lawsuit for its heavy-handed measures — and for acting as both judge and jury.
See Also: “Why Do You Hate the LA Parking Violations Bureau So Much? Maybe Because It Lies and Steals Your Money.”
Still, Beeber has a hill to climb. The few voters who follow L.A. City Council elections rarely choose anyone who has not been anointed by local and state Democratic Party VIPs.
The last true outsider to pull off a major upset in an L.A. City Council seat came out of Venice in 1987, Ruth Galanter, an environmentalist who beat a lifer councilwoman who was seen as too tight with developers.
Then a “sort of” outsider in 2011 — 24 years later — longtime cop Joe Buscaino, pulled off an upset by beating lifer politician Warran Furutani. Furutani will be best remembered as a seat-warmer on the LAUSD Board of Education during an era when its schools spiraled into academic disaster. And yes. the big Democratic names strongly rallied behind Furutani.
Now, Beeber thinks he can tip the scale of history.
He faces loads of challenges. First, check out (below) the heavily gerrymandered City Council District 4 area that Beeber has to win over — a bizarrely shaped voting district that vaults back and forth across the mountains and can't truly be called a “community” or a “district” at all:
CD 4, which was once centered in the Wilshire District, has been moved all around town and radically reshaped by the City Council. It's a patchwork of far-flung neighborhoods and looks like a perching baby vulture — with the Iberian Peninsula stuck atop its head.
Sherman Oaks is Spain and Portugal; Coldwater Canyon is the vulture head; Laurel Canyon and Sunset Hills are its chest; Cahuenga Pass and Hollywood its body. The claws are Hancock Park and Miracle Mile; the folded-up wings are Toluca Lake. The tail? Silver Lake.
Besides great views for many residents who live north of the vulture's rib cage, these widely separated voters, cleaved by the Hollywood Hills, in no way represent a community of shared interests.
Before Beeber, two respected activists tried to beat Tom La Bonge in his re-election bid in 2011, Tomas O' Grady and Stephen Box. O'Grady and Box failed, but neither man was known as well, citywide, as Beeber.
One Sherman Oaks political activist tells us that there's little chance a Valley resident — such as Beeber — can win the district. This activist notes that CD 4 voters live mostly on the city side of the Hollywood Hills.
Here's the crowd of 14 running for Council District 4 in 2015:
Tara Bannister, VP of the National Apartment Association
Teddy Davis, former aide to Antonio Villaraigosa
Sheila Irani, an entrepreneur in Lake Hollywood
Step Jones, owner of a vape shop and a “vapor advocate”
Wally Knox, a one-time Democratic legislator in the 1990s
Fred Mariscal, a Democratic Party and gay activist
Tomas O'Grady, an edible gardens entrepreneur who got 31 percent of the vote against La Bonge in 2011
Joan Pelico, top aide to Councilman Paul Koretz
John Perron Jr., president of the East Hollywood Chamber of Commerce
Carolyn Ramsay, top aide to Tom La Bonge
David Ryu, a Korean community advocate and executive at Kedren Community Mental Health Center
Steve Veres, an aide to legislator Kevin de Leon
Oscar Winslow, president of the L.A. city attorneys' government-employee union