By J. Patrick Coolican
As many as 200 people sat in a hot, airless meeting hall in North Holywood Saturday to kick off L.A. Clean Sweep's campaign to, as the name suggests, beat incumbents in next year's City Hall elections.
It was a clear demonstration of the anti-establishment anger that can be witnessed all over the city but seems to have particular momentum in the Valley.
Ron Kaye, the founder of L.A. Clean Sweep and former editor of the LA Daily News, was sweating though his shirt as he made opening remarks: “It should be the greatest city in the world,” he lamented. Instead, “What a mess we made of it.”
He outlined a platform that seemed to have a little something for each strain of this disparate, disaffected coalition: a return to fiscal responsibility following years of budget crisis; honest and ethical government; and, investment in the city's aging and crumbling infrastructure.
With that, former Mayor Richard Riordan took the stage and railed against City Hall and what he charged is a lack of leadership to tackle politically difficult and dangerous tasks, such as public employee pension cuts. He warned about the city's future given the state of education and the prospect of poor children becoming adults without the tools to thrive. He railed against the teachers union, if not by name.
Other speakers followed, though not in the Riordan strain. There was Tezozomac, an organizer at South Central Farm, the community garden profiled in the Oscar nominated documentary, “The Garden.” He spoke about the nature of political power and how to attain it.
Gerardo Almeida, an organizer for the Laborers' International Union, which helped defeat Measure B, obliquely asked that the group speak to the concerns of all of L.A. and not just the Valley, “We need change for everybody, from all walks of life.”
Shirley Ford, a co-founder of Parent Revolution, which is a parents' group focused on helping parents' wrest control of schools, asked the attendees to come to neighborhoods like hers. “See the people of color fighting for their neighborhoods and schools,” she said. “Come out to my neighborhood and do a clean sweep.”
Indeed, the danger for this nascent movement is that it be perceived as a Riordan Restoration, an affluent, middle class, white Valley cabal led by the unappealing motto, “I'm rich and white and I'm not gonna take it anymore.”
Kaye has become something of a gadfly and bomb-throwing polemicist, but there's some savvy there, too, as illustrated by the diverse, vaguely hippie-ish group of speakers (minus Riordan, obviously.)
Outside the event, he was enjoying a cold beer and cigarette, and, nodding, conceded the point. “We need to reach out to communities that are harder to reach.”
Losing with honor and anger is not the goal, he said. “We can't keep losing in self-righteousness.” Kaye wants real candidates who can organize and raise money and win support from civic, business, and, yes, labor leaders of a certain type — disaffected with downtown and wanting a new direction.
So the hope, Kaye said, is a new coalition, a city government “beholden to community and not developers and public employee unions and consultants and lobbyists.”