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City Hall’s Win-Win Strategy Wins in CD2 — Who’s to Blame?


At a rate of one voter every 15 minutes per polling place on Tuesday, the East San Fernando Valley’s 270,000 residents decided they want to be represented at City Hall by someone who represents the interests of those who have taken LA hostage.

The turnout on Tuesday was even lower than those who cast mail-in ballots, a grand total of less than 12 percent of registered voters.

You can’t blame the machine for the outcome, a December runoff between union-backed Paul Krekorian and developer-backed Chris Essel who split nearly two-thirds of the votes cast,  with Tamar Galatzan and Mary Benson distant runners-up.

You have seen the enemy, he is us.

The seven candidates who actually lived in CD2 before the election was called split just 5,092 votes, while the three carpetbaggers (Krekorian, Essel and Zuma Dogg) got 9,433.

Too many candidates with too little money — the winners had nearly 90 percent of the cash raised for the campaign — is the ostensible reason. You can throw in a lot of others like apathy, ignorance, demographics, defeatism to explain why it turned out to be another exercise in LA’s Dictatorship of the Few.

But we shouldn’t let ourselves off so easily.

I did not believe Essel could get traction in the East Valley and I was wrong. I don’t think she can beat Krekorian in the runoff no matter how much more money the mayor and his cronies throw into her campaign.

It really doesn’t make a lot of difference who wins. They both will maintain the unanimity of the City Council in matters large and small.

What matters is whether the activists of the city — Neighborhood Councils, homeowner groups and everyone else who make up the city’s civic culture — face the painful truth that they are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

They chose up sides in this election and backed their local favorite instead of coming behind a single candidate and building a campaign organization that could man phone banks, walk precincts, leaflet at community events and hold rallies.

They didn’t organize and they didn’t raise any money. They acted like they lived in a small town where democracy is flourishing instead of in a big city where money and power talk loudly.

In the 18 months since I too became an activist, I’ve seen the same thing throughout the city.

We are victims of political myopia, unable to see anything beyond our own little issues, unwilling to see how we are like peasants in Medieval times sticking out our hands to our lordly masters and begging for crumbs from their table of power.

This is as true of the business community and the civic elite as it is of us ordinary people.

We are our own worst enemy. We victimize ourselves and blame the mayor, the unions, developers, lobbyists, contractors, consultants and other assorted connivers.

We can keep on putting all our energy and resources into the issues that we individually care about from sidewalk repair to bike paths to the oversize project in our neighborhood and the lack of planning.

Or we can see how the politicians and their army of staffers and bureaucrats backed by special interest money run circles around us even as they trash the neighborhoods and loot the city treasury.

LA is in a deep crisis. Services are being slashed. The future is being mortgaged. There is no way out unless the business and civic leaders step forward and the grassroots activists look up from the ground and see the big picture.

It’s all about power.

The political machine, weak and leaky as it is, can control elections when less than 12 percent of voters cast ballots. When nearly 18 percent of the people vote as they did on Measure B and in the City Attorney’s race, the people stand a chance.

If 25 percent voted, things could be different. There would be a balancing of interests and honest debate. LA could be saved from going over the precipice into bankruptcy and the chaos that would follow.

Nobody changes without taking personal responsibility and taking action to turn themselves around. It is truly now or never.


COUNCIL DISTRICT 2                           Votes       Percent
TAMAR GALATZAN                              1,871        12.94%
JOZEF “JOE” THOMAS ESSAVI             306           2.12%
CHRISTINE ESSEL                               4,104        28.39%
MICHAEL MC CUE                                 339           2.35%
PETE SANCHEZ                                    699            4.84%
DAVID “ZUMA DOGG” SALTSBURG      410           2.84%
FRANK SHEFTEL                                  441           3.05%
PAUL KREKORIAN                             4,929         34.10%
MARY BENSON                                  1,198          8.29%
AUGUSTO BISANI                               158           1.09%


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38 Responses to City Hall’s Win-Win Strategy Wins in CD2 — Who’s to Blame?

  1. NoHo Mom says:

    Thank you for saying this. I liked many of the grassroots candidates, but I waited in vain for a groundswell to build over one or the other. In the end I voted for Pete Sanchez, but I knew it wasn’t enough. Frankly, a few of them should have fallen on their swords and backed a few more. I would have walked out in the heat door to door for any of them had I felt I was part of a larger movement to take back control, but all I saw was infighting and picking in comments on the blogs among their supporters. And I lay a big fat goosegg on the ‘Main Stream Media’. The coverage of this race was a disgrace. No wonder Essel and Krekorian won, with their mailers they were the only names the voters even knew going into this election. A lot of people voted for Krekorian in my neighborhood because ‘he has a good staff’ and if there’s a local problem ‘they’ll answer the phone.’ Shows you how low we have sunk – Wendy’s staff didn’t even do that. I’m very depressed and I have to admit this makes me want to leave LA even more rather than stay and fight a losing battle.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Are you nuts? The LA City Clerk’s Office changes Tujunga polling places each and every election. Do you think that is conducive to consistent voter participation? I know of neighbors who gave up on finding it’s location… 10902 Terecita Road… it’s way up there in the boonys.
    Yah, they should have persisted. But, they didn’t. Sometimes, the system just burns you out. A citizen shouldn’t have to fight the system in this way. I’m tired of the crap.

  3. Undocumented American says:

    Zuma Dogg is a “carpetbagger”? More like a Cardboardboxer.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the perspective. I agree with you, but I’m afraid people are too myopic to see the larger picture.

  5. Teddy Howell says:

    I hope everyone with a pc who reads your message will send it to their family, friends and neighbors, including the comments – I agree, we are all responsible for voting every election and
    for taking part in campaigns. That is what our American Way is all about. If we take time to register, we are also responsible for participating. And yes, people should be notified in advance of an election if the poll
    site is changed. That happened out here the last election, I did vote by going back to
    the ballot I was sent and sure enough, the site had been changed. So I went there and voted but
    the numbers were down. Since these sites are in
    private homes, I can see where those people may not be able to keep doing it forever. Why don’t we have them at libraries or post-offices or local office of the council district? Consistency would be a big help.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Sure everyone should have united behind one candidate and encouraged some others who predictably polled so low to drop out – but the one candidate “accepted” as grassroots and with at least a miniscule change of winning was Mary, and she’s a conservative Republican with a very niche following. Though Walter Moore and Kevin James who endorsed her naively thought she had a chance at the runoff.
    Now they’re gearing up for 2011 and vowing to use the “Republican machine” to raise money and for foot soldiers, regretting that she didn’t come out as a Republican earlier, until the Party endorsed her. She (probably correctly) that it would be a liability. So by default, since the others are even less viable or niche (forget McCue, Bisani, Essavi, the Cardboardboxer, and Sheftel’s potheads didn’t come out as strongly as had been expected) the “grassroots” candidate will be openly Republican, for better or worse.

  7. Walter Moore says:

    I just love it when people make up stuff about me.
    “Now they’re gearing up for 2011 and vowing to use the ‘Republican machine’ to raise money for foot soldiers, regretting that she didn’t come out as a Republican earlier, until the Party endorsed her.”
    I’m not a Republican; I’m not “gearing up” for anything; and I think it’s a huge political liability in this town to label yourself as a Republican.
    I also think the issues that are ruining this City are completely non-ideological, namely, competence and integrity. That’s why my supporters came from both parties. We need to focus on adopting policies all of us support — e.g., hiring enough police, not wasting money, promoting employment — rather than name-calling and focusing on inane points of abstract political philosophy.
    Mary Benson CAN win the 2011 race, but only if people who care contribute to her campaign so she can reach more people.
    Unions and developers understand the importance of contributing to campaigns to protect their interests. Taxpayers, home-owners and business owners better learn to do the same.

  8. Kristin Sabo says:

    I voted for and supported Mary Benson. I’m a liberal-leaner, too.
    Those of us who could have done a lot of work to get out the vote for her were just a little busy with some kind of major hell called The Station Fire during the most important time for getting out votes in this election. I personally was on mandatory evac from both the house I was living in and the house I was moving to during the time I was supposed to be moving! Third time for this fire sh*t in less than a year for me, personally. I’m still exhausted from that ordeal, and so is most of the Lake View Terrace, Sunland-Tujunga foothill community. Give us all a freakin’ break please.
    That said, MARY BENSON IN 2011.
    Finally, Walter- who are you kidding? You’re about as George Bush scary as it gets. It bothers me way too much we both agree on Mary. Thankfully I’ve worked in the trenches with her on many a community issue for more than a decade… I guess it shows that integrity rises above.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Kristin – You aren’t getting it. This has nothing to do with the fire. It has everything to do with the absentee ballots. Essel and Krekorian won that race long before election day and long before the fire started too. They won it the day that absentee ballots were printed. You, Mary and all of the supporters she had should have been working and knocking on doors and doing just one mailing. One only. An absentee ballot with Mary’s name on it.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Walter @10:38: Did you listen to Kevin James last night, before and after you were interviewed? He also spoke with John Thomas and Mary. “They” also refers to Republican Party Strategist John Thomas and his conversation with James rehashing Mary’s loss or potential as they see it and plans. Don’t worry, “they” are not relying on you to win.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Walter Moore: “I’m not a Republican…I also think…the issues ruining this city are completely non-ideological.” Are you TOTALLY insane?
    Your obsession with illegal immigrants being the cause of all woes is “completely non-ideological” and you are apolitical? Kristin Sabo’s comment you “are as scary as it gets” hits the mark. Your being James’ ideological soulmate and the two of you being Mary’s biggest “name” backers therefore can hurt more than help, as even you admit: but a horse pretending to lose a hump is just a camel without a hump, in your case, a self-deluding and blatantly lying hump. You’re not even just a Republican, you’re the rightwing faction that even McCain tried to distance himself from. (Until he got Palin, who probably doesn’t have a problem with illegals because Alaska is just too darn far and cold for them to find their way to. Maybe she can see some at the Canadian border from her house, though.)

  12. City Watchdog says:

    Ron. Why don’t you post a blog on the insidious waste that transpire at City Hall….like Channel 36 for example. There is no reason to have TWO city channels but the City keeps throwing money at it even though they have no say in the direction of Channel 36. Two Mayors tried to cut Channel 36 out of the budget and City Council restored it to the tune of over half a million dollars a year. Have you watched Channel 36? The programming is a joke. One of their “best shows” on there for years was a woman who walked around pushing a shopping cart as she interviewed random people on the street. Take the little bit of good programming (and I stress little bit) and simply put it on CITY OWNED AND OPERATED channel 35 and cut this insidious waste of money ONCE AND FOR ALL. CHANNEL 36 IS THE WORST PROGRAMMING IN AMERICA!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Walter, be a man and admit it. You are a white supremacist, anti-immigrant, Jew-hater. Such forces raise their ugly head in tough economic times and exploit people`s fears and anxieties.

  14. Kristin Sabo says:

    I didn’t say that Walter Moore was “as scary as it gets”. What I said was: “You’re about as George Bush scary as it gets.” Different.
    I appreciate when a comment is supported, but being misquoted isn’t fair.

  15. Kristin Sabo says:

    Yeah, I guess I don’t get it. Hindsight is 20/20, and I didn’t have any idea Mary was even going to run for sure. She’d said she would in the very early part of 2009, and then I didn’t hear a word until it was signature time. Then that ended up being a crisis, which thankfully I was able to help handle.
    I. am. learning.
    That said, voter turnout in S-T, LVT was LOW because people are emotionally and physically exhausted. How can you get charged up about an election when you’ve just spent two solid weeks in a constant, high-adrenalin fear state? Sorry, but that is how it is.

  16. Anonymous says:

    You all are proving Ron’s point with this petty back and forth. Meanwhile Paul Krekorian – a guy who should be run out of town for his behavior in Sacramento – is going to be your next Councilman.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Better Paul K. than Chris “call me Jack Weiss” Essel

  18. Tomi says:

    Great. Now we can choose between Joel Wachs Jr and
    Brittainy Spears.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know what “George Bush scary” means to KK to describe Walter Moore and don’t really care, but what IS scary is that she and Walter Moore are both Benson supporters, both think she represents THEIR values.
    Mary IS a proud Republican even if Walter Moore isn’t, and will use the party to run as such so it will be interesting to see what happens. No way will she unite the outsiders, though, and no way could she have beaten any of the top three. If they weren’t running against each other, they would have won in a big majority. Maybe just an Antonio 55% majority, but still in the primary. So you forced an expensive run-off, anyway, and have a chance to influence the candidates as they vie for support.

  20. crooks and liars says:

    we all goin to pay for this 2 crooks one way or another , this 2 liars dint runn for office to make youre life better or make sure you take care of youre family and youre family are safe and you have a better job .
    he does not matter who wins
    one is for the unions, the other is for special interest she will take youre home from you if she can sell it for profit.

  21. Walter Moore says:

    Of course, “Anonymous” and Sabo can’t back up anything they assert about me with any actual quotations from, say, me. So they just trot out the standard City Hall play book: call the guy a racist.
    Can either of you identify anything in my actual platform to support your assertions? No, you can’t.
    Eliminating subsidies for billionaire developers — isn’t that something we can all agree on?
    Hiring enough police to make the streets safe — which party opposes that?
    Eliminating the City of L.A.’s business income tax, which drives away the entertainment industry and other employers — did you not even get a “C” in Econ 101?
    Preserving the city’s low-rise, low-density architecture — wow, that IS scary, huh?
    And reducing the Mayor’s annual travel budget from $200,000 back to his predecessor’s $20,000 budget — that’s totally fascist, huh?
    If you want to win people to your side, whatever it is, you should try honesty.

  22. Anonymous says:

    As I explained to Walter some time ago, when you can’t defeat your opponent on logic, simply label them a racist.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Instead of addressing serious and intelligent issues Ron raises, most bloggers turn it into a mutual in-fight. So here is my two-cents worth re: Neighborhood Councils who love to present their business card with the emblazoned city emblem. They all claim to represent 40,000+ members and thus should be listened to. Two elections have proved what everyone knows: they represent no more than the dozen people who attend their meetings. They are too petty and full of self importance to make any difference to the politics of LA. They can’t even agree on a candidate, but you’ll hear their bellyaching about the winners for the next many months, as they blame the unions, city hall corruption etc.
    The city should withdraw their funding. They don’t deserve it. They can set up their homeowner’s associations and deal with their petty problems, but not on taxpayer’s dime. The money can be better spent elsewhere.

  24. Ron, I think it goes beyond the fact that nobody cared enough to vote. It’s also that nobody formidable cares enough to run. They are scared off by the likes of Essel and Shallman, of Kerkorian’s mastery of Assembly issues that make him sound like a complete policy wonk in a debate (he isn’t). Essel really needed to be coached, badly, never really seemed to be, and got away with it anyway. Acebo screwed up Tamar’s campaign but good.
    People get tied up with the Internet in elections. What they should really be tied up with is launching candidates and then tied up with GOTV. I think the so-called little seven actually got littler as the race wore on–foot-stomping and Internet rants never work as an attention-getter.
    And if you check the precinct votes, you don’t find a single precinct in which any candidate topped 98 votes. People were winning precincts with 30 votes! It was an awful show. But that’s gotta be the candidates’ faults at least as much as the voters.

  25. Anonymous says:

    There’s also the signficant factor that this was a single-issue election, so there was nothing else to bring out voters. Which made absentee ballots althemore important. The Marcy 4th and May 19th elections both had taxes/Measures/props — pocietbook issues that amounted to taxes — very unpopular with conservatives, homeowner groups, all the groups most likely to vote. In March, it was the unpopular Measure B that mobilized an opposition movement across the city, which was then aimed right at the Measure’s maker the Mayor’s perceived surrogate Jack Weiss. THEN in May, the State Props which were voted down, again hugely unpopular. These voters skewed right to far right.
    If the 2011 election has similarly unpopular taxes, the vote will skew more right, and would hurt Krekorian and, if the city finances don’t improve, whoever is then the incumbent.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Get real, Mary Benson has no chance in 2011 or anytime. No doubt she is a decent and dedicated community leader, but she is not cut out to be a council member. We don’t need to get complicated with this. The truth is that it’s pretty tough to listen to her for more than 60 seconds without getting depressed or falling asleep. So her content can improve, but her delivery likely won’t. You want a grassroots candidate? Keep it real. Find someone that’s likable. Cause you can raise as much for Mary as you want and send out many mailers, but not everyone is suited to be on a mailer.

  27. anonymous says:

    Who counts the ballots or, how are they counted?
    I don’t doubt these two won. I’m just curious.
    If a candidate can only utilize one of the following, what buys the most votes: mailers, signs, endorsements, phone banks, television spots or bribes?

  28. Anonymous says:

    I know Kristin. I know that you’re right and I know that you had the fire and I know that you are still learning. You did well anyways.
    Just take what we say about the absentee ballots, etc. to heart if you work on another campaign and you’ll see the strategy in making it work. I have all the trust in the world out there with you, Mary and everyone else I’ve met. Except for Joe B. He’s still trying to justify why Tamar would have been good and how she wouldn’t have lost.
    So Kristin, I really do hope you get the value in backing Krekorian when you’re all ready. I know that will take a few days, but I know you. Seriously and Essel??! No way.

  29. Anonymous says:

    As usual, you’re wrong. You say, “You have seen the enemy, he is us. You dolt. It was the leadership that failed us. In Sunland/Tujunga you have the Sunland-Tujunga Alliance (STA). These people are “ONE TRICK PONIES”. They organized successfully for the Anti-Home Depot. Yet, did they lift a finger other than endorsements? I doubt it. They could have swung the election, if they tried.
    One paragraph is the post is correct. You say, “What matters is whether the activists of the city — Neighborhood Councils, homeowner groups and everyone else who make up the city’s civic culture — face the painful truth that they are part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

  30. Anonymous says:

    Furthermore, whoever lead Mary Benson’s campaign team is incompetent. It’s unfortunate that “learning” Kristin Sabo, if she is the one, was chosen as decision maker when Sunland-Tujunga was ripe for leadership to emerge during it’s crisis. Crisis makes opportunities. Yet Mary Benson’s team laid down. It’s all so pathetic when only a few thousand votes made the difference.

  31. Kristin Sabo says:

    Walter, shut the hell up. I didn’t call you a racist, you crybaby. Yes – I am now calling you a crybaby. I’ve already repeated what I said, I’m not going to do it again. The-words-on-the-page-are-what-I-said. Nothing more.
    5:17am, I most certainly was NOT Mary’s campaign manager or pivotal in her campaign by assignment. Just a volunteer who put in as much time and effort as she could. And I have the right to learn… unlike some who just sit back and complain… The end.
    2:12am, I will back Paul now. It would be nice if he actually made some specific commitments to the community. I’ve heard a lot of political-speak that sounds nice but says pretty much nothing in the way of real commitment from the gentleman. Right now my support is anti-Essel. It would be nice if it became pro-Paul. I like him person-to-person, same as Tamar. But politics is a whole ‘nother deal.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Mary Benson’s supporters cost us this election. If they had thrown their support behind Tamar instead of running a campaign of smears and name-calling against anyone that disagreed with them, we might not be sitting with 2 carpetbaggers in the finals.
    If Mary runs again in 2011, I hope she’s smart enough to dump her lunatic fringe support before stepping into the race

  33. Anonymous says:

    “Mary Benson’s supporters cost us this election?”
    Pretty pathetic excuse. Could be that you ran a poor campaign? Nah.

  34. Both of you: actually, that sounds fairly accurate to me, all of it. Mary absorbed precisely the kind of devoted workers that Tamar lacked. And Tamar didn’t get them not only because of Mary but because of the way her campaign was managed.

  35. KK says:

    What occurs to me as I read Ron’s piece, is that those of us who don’t like our city run by special interests seem to lack both leadership and organization. The argument over whether someone is democratic or republican seems to entirely miss the point. I propose that we begin the Angeleno party, the purpose of which is to take back our city and that Ron be our titular head.

  36. El Quixotian says:

    Well, would they both be trumped by the likeable and photogenic examplar of Anonymous on September 23, 2009 11:33 PM?
    Oh wait, he’s already Mayor.
    We would do better with a “boring” city councilperson who represents the community and knows what they’re talking about!

  37. Anonymous says:

    Interesting that when Ron was handicapping the race with Kevin James the night before, he thought it would be Paul then Tamar, because he didn’t see any grassroots support for Essel. She did poorly at the debates, too.
    BUT the Daily News which had co-endorded ehr said in their editorial the morning of, that to judge by tv and mailers, you’d think there were only 2 candidates in the race, so that seems to hit the nail on the head. Just not enough mailers, and the DN said what Tamar did send out were confusing. (I didn’t see them but sounds like they were more policy-wonkish, while mailers need to be more easily digestible.)
    Shows you can win despite having no traction at the grassroots level, which means endorsements by the homeowner groups (who frankly often only represent the dozen or so board members themselves, contrary to what they like to think) and devoted voters who show up at the forums and debates. Other than those who go to business groups, that may be the same few hundred people.
    These forums are influential because reporters do go and report, talk to people, etc. But there was still the majority which believed Essel’s/ Shallman’s mailers and slams on the others, the soundbites, and the fiction from the LA Times Editorial board that Essel was “the most independent of City Hall.” Tamar and Paul also needed to make a stronger case for why they were running for another office so soon after spending a fortune getting their current posts, why taxpayers should be stuck with the bill for another special election like Wendy left us: Paul still has the hurdle.

  38. Anonymous says:

    In addition to the fact that the hard-core political bloggers, attendees at forums, homeowner group board members etc. are a tiny faction of the general population, it was the fact that this was a single-issue election that kept all but those hard-core voters home.
    The March and May 19th elections mobilized voters against taxes, the pocketbook issues which always bring out the conservative vote: Measure B in March and the statewide props in May. Those voters skewed right, anti-City Hall against B, plus that brought out the whole network of NC’s as well which circulated “alerts” even though they aren’t supposed to be political; then anti-state government voters in May.
    The May ballot got out huge numbers of conservatives thanks to rightwing radio and all their stunts, the pitchfork rallies and “tea parties,” vs. this little election which got no attention on the Jon & Kens. However, it did show that James’ endorsement wasn’t worth much, especially last-minute; but those who think Mary can be anything more than a spoiler EVER are living in some pipedream.

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