For a few hours Wednesday afternoon, the Los Angeles City Council actually acted like a legislative body debating issues of great public importance as if they represented democracy in action — instead of a conspiracy to hoodwink the people and sell out the public interest.
The issues that caught my ear as I listened in were the Instant Runoff Voting ballot measure and the Luxury Tax on big houses.
The sell in both cases amounted to money, nothing but money. And why not when the city admits to a $110 million current deficit and a looming $400 million shortfall and knows it will get worse in the months ahead.
Instant Runoff is one of those great ideas that works in really democratic communities where there’s lots of candidates for every office, a contentious political environment and competitive races — towns like Berkeley or Santa Monica or Cambridge, Mass.
It eliminates runoff elections by having voters number their first choice, second choice and so on. So when no one gets a majority, the also-rans are eliminated and the second choices are counted until a majority is attained.
In L.A., the unions and such great advocates for the masses as Jackie Goldberg and other ultra-liberals are gung-ho for it because they believe it will all but eliminate the pretense of city elections and allow them to indulge their destructive political fantasies for decades to come no matter what the people think.
Surprisingly, the argument that eliminating runoffs would save millions fell apart because election officials pointed out the near impossibility of doing that in isolation from the state and and county and Councilman Dennis Zine honed in on the fact it would actually cost more for the next few years at the least.
Others spoke up like Jan Perry and noted that underdogs in L.A. stand almost no chance in elections that are as lopsided in fund-raising and insider support as they are unless they can force a runoff. The playing field levels then as it did in her upset win to her first term.
Councilman Richard Alarcon’s class warfare against the rich was even more inspiring since what he proposed had even less merit.
Frankly, I could sooner support a soak-the-rich city income tax than go along with charging them money because they have a big house as Alarcon wants. That at least would represent an honest socialist point of view about redistributing the wealth rather than taxing them on the presumption that owning a big house requires more city services.
By that illogic, residents of poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods would pay higher taxes because they require more cops and support services than affluent hillside residents.
Bill Rosendahl actually got testy about it — a violation of the council’s rules of tepid engagement and unanimous agreement — and Alarcon bristled at the violation, arguing the $10 million his plan would raise would make his class warfare supporters happy even if it wouldn’t do anything to solve the massive deficit problem.
All in all, I took it as a good sign that there was still some life left in City Hall politicians. Maybe, just maybe they aren’t dead souls.Maybe they are just the living dead and we can still resurrect them if we can awaken ourselves.