EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written for the current issue of Nina Royal’s North Valley Reporter.
Last winter, dozens of community activists fired off emails to thousands, manned phone banks and fanned out across Los Angeles to spread the word that the solar energy Measure B was a fraud – a multi-million rip-off of ratepayers.
They beat the City Hall political machine despite being outspent 70 to 1.
It showed that grassroots movements could make a difference if they had truth on their side and a better, well-honed tory line and used all the tools available in this high-tech era.
Two months later, community activists came together again and formed the base of support that helped elect Carmen Trutanich as City Attorney over the machine’s hand-picked legal gofer Jack Weiss and nearly pulled off an upset in the Council District 5 where Neighborhood Council leader David Vahedi faced ultra-liberal professional politician Paul Koretz.
In both those elections, solid Republican support was vital. Though only 25 percent of the electorate, Republicans are organized and often vote as a bloc, which means if you have them on your side, you only need a third of the remaining votes to win.
The CD2 special election to succeed Wendy Greuel was trickier. None of the eight candidates who actually stood a chance before the seat opened up ever stood a chance.
Assemblyman Paul Krekorian and Hollywood lobbyist Chris Essel had all the money and support from public employee unions and the power structure. They easily made the runoff, leaving the activist community in a quandary over who was the lesser of the two evils.
NC members, homeowner groups and other activists spent a lot of time auditing the candidates and overwhelmingly came to the conclusion that Krekorian was the best hope for better representation at City Hall.
The challenge now is to hold Krekorian’s feet to the fire, to make sure his staff is responsive to community needs and that he has the support he needs to stand up to the back room dealing and bungling at City Hall and avoid being co-opted.
Krekorian said rightly that the election represented “democracy as it’s supposed to be,”
neighborhood leaders coming together to beat the machine’s candidate despite having a 2- to-1 money advantage, much of it spent in nasty hit attacks.
Taken together, the elections this year provide a road map to how to seize power at City Hall.
Campaigns for seven Council seats – the even-numbered districts,
including Krekorian’s – will get under way next fall for the March 2011
primary so the time to start to work to win some of those seats is now.
We need to identify strong potential candidates who can beat Tom
LaBonge, Tony Cardenas, Herb Wesson, Bernard Parks, Jose Huizar and
Greig Smith’s anointed successor, his chief of staff Mitch Englander.
And we need to start our own political action committee to raise funds
to support candidates who will stand up for the city’s residents and
fight for reform.
At the least, a well-organized, citywide citizen’s reform movement will
put heat on the incumbents and put them on notice that we are watching
their every action and capable of ousting them from office.
Help those who help you, punish those who hurt you – that’s how DWP
union bully boy Brian D’Arcy operates, why he spent another fortune in
Essel’s losing cause.
As far as he is concerned, winning or losing don’t matter as much as
having everyone in office looking over their shoulder all the time,
fearful that he will come after them.
If the activist community wants a seat at the table of power, it will
have to act just as ruthlessly and have a credible capacity to
intimidate as well as help those who hold office.
Anyway, that’ my take-away from this year’s elections.