A few days ago I told a friend of Supervisor Yaroslavsky that I thought I would wind up supporting him for Mayor of Los Angeles.
At the least, I said sarcastically, “Zev is the lesser of four evils.”
On Thursday, Zev Yaroslavsky finally announced he had made up his mind about who he is in the here and now and decided to declare he was out of the mayoral race he never entered, a race he would have won in 1989, might have win in 1993 and 2001, could have won in 2005 and 2009 but didn’t seem to stand a chance of winning in 2013.
I say that because Zev had become jaded by nearly four decades of swimming in the sewer of an increasingly corrupt political system in the city and county of Los Angeles, a world in which elected officials had become indifferent to the challenges of leadership, of the obligation of being a servant of the public, not its master.
At a time when we so desperately need people in the White House, the statehouse, the “temple of democracy” as Eric Garcetti dares to call City Hall without even a wink and a nod to the cruel irony of his remark, we desperately need officials committed to the art of governance, not the black art of political manipulation and deceit.
By the political standards of this generation, Zev Yaroslavsky stands out as a lion in this winter or our discontent, one of two. The other is his antagonist and sometimes partner in keeping the County of Los Angeles fiscally solvent, even if so many of its departments are terrible failures, Mike Antonovich.
They have been a political odd couple a long time, savvy, untouchable, dominating with records of service in elected office that are noteworthy for their longevity as well as their willingness and ability to ‘make it work.’ Yet, both are flawed by the arrogance that comes come from holding office too long without challenge — they have become imperious, lost their faith in the people, consumed by the politics of the game they play so well.
In a word: Cynical.
Then something strange happened on Thursday when Yaroslavsky came clean: He will finish out his time in what he has called “the best job in the world” and get on with the rest of his life. He started sounded like the guy he once was before he waded into the sewer of LA politics that sucked the blood from souls of so many lesser figures.
When Zev spoke to them, he suddenly sounded like a … heaven, help me… a leader, a real leader. He spoke about how bad things are, showing how clearly he understands what is wrong while displaying the grit to stand up to the special interests, at least some of the time.
Zev knows the details better than anyone in the game and as I have observed him over many, many years, served the people of the city and county of Los Angeles with distinction better than others, at least relatively speaking compared to the competition.
In the political desert we have been for so long, only Yaroslavsky and Antonovich stand out as super-stars. Longevity. Political Skill. Smart. Few Mistakes. Nothing Sticks. Achievements. Fiscal Responsibility.
Yaroslavsky offered no apology, talking about the “other things i want to do with my life… offering no apology for doing what’s in my own best interest . . . ” insisting he would “love to be mayor of the city, especially in a challenging time . . . I could have won.”
He wants to write and teach and travel., he says. We can relate to that but we also know that having blinked time after time at lunging for the big prize — mayor of America’s second largest city — no one can doubt what he would really like to do.
So let’s draft Zev, a groundswell for someone smart enough to actually understand the problems and tough enough to stand up the unions and special interests, at least some of them.
Look at the field:
Front-runner Wendy Greuel who is easily manipulated and given to covering her butt more than standing up for what’s right and necessary.
Eric Garcetti who hides his intelligence with platitudes and conceals what he’s really doing with deceits that reflect an underlying contempt for ordinary folks.
Jan Perry, tough and down-to-earth, who has showed courage standing up to the bullies at the Department of Water and Power while doing the bidding of AEG and the Central City Association who sold her out of her district in redistricting without even a word of apology.
Talk show host and attorney Kevin James who actually has connected to the city’s discontents at the grassroots but with only a tenth of the money of Greuel and Garcetti doesn’t stand a chance of being heard unless some big money steps forward to make him competitive.
So think about it people, do you really want to turn the reins of the city over to a leadership team of Greuel, City Attorney Mike Feuer, Controller Dennis Zine and Council President Herb Wesson when so much is wrong, when so much could get a whole lot worse?
Run, Zev, run.