By Nick Antonicello
The road to democracy was long and winding in 2022, with much shock and surprise as LA will have its first female mayor in Karen Bass and Pacific Palisades will be directly represented by Councilmember-elect Traci Park here in CD-11.
Here are some takes on what we witnessed and where we’re headed in 2023:
- Money can’t buy you love, and money failed to purchase the office of Mayor of Los Angeles. While Rick Caruso is an accomplished businessman, he was defined as a billionaire with a yacht who seemingly was writing checks to elect himself mayor and the demographics of 2022 are much different when Dick Riordan ran as a Republican and won back in 1993. To spend in excess of $100 million dollars for a job you would do for free, the propensity of self-funding at the end of the day only really prevented Bass from a first-ballot primary victory and resulting in a 10-point loss in the run-off on November 8th.
- Signs don’t vote, but they stand out when you have enough of them. First-time candidate Traci Park plastered much of the Westside with a plethora of placards west of Lincoln, as it became inherent her support was wide and deep. In my 30 years of living by the beach, I never saw as many signs for one candidate that I saw for the Councilmember-elect.
- And while money still matters, does independent expenditure financing undermine LA’s matching fund system? Why give $800 to the candidate of your choice when you can write a check for $5,000, $10,000 or $100,000 to the IE that supports the same? The notion that individual voters have the same standing of big money donors with no limits to boot makes matching funds seem like a joke and those with the most money can have the biggest swath of influence? An entity that can donate $300,000 is a huge player and influencer and the entire campaign finance model needs to be corrected and the playing field leveled.
- Underfunded underdogs can still compete and win in Los Angeles. The biggest example of a grass roots, come-from-behind, underdog win has to go to City Attorney-elect Hydee Feldstein-Soto who surged late in the June Primary to steal a second place finish only to upset Faisal Gill with a 10-point win in the runoff. Feldstein-Soto was without question the most impressive and articulate of all of the candidates I interviewed and she is clearly going to be an elected official that will have no problem draining the swamp which is located at LA’s City Hall. Her presence will be immediate and she is clearly a rising star in LA City politics and government.
- Race matters, and racism has no place in elected office. The leaked tape of former council member Nury Martinez, Councilmember Kevin de Leon and outgoing Councilmember Gill Cedillo was disgraceful and an embarrassment to the City of Los Angeles. This feeling of entitlement laced with bigotry, racism and arrogance should not be tolerated at any level and hopefully the recall against Mr. de Leon will be successful. He needs to be ostracized from the workings of local government for his inexcusable behavior and lackluster apology.
- No names can become household names. In the case of progressive City Controller-elect Kenneth Mejia, who garnered an impressive 63% of the vote over embedded city hall insider Paul Koretz, LA didn’t seem to be in the mood for another longtime politico just running for another position after being termed out of the other. Mr. Mejia, like Feldstein-Soto and Park have an opportunity to bring a breath of fresh air and new perspective on how best to govern by offering solutions over politics as usual.
- And household names can be overtaken by new ones. That was the case in the BOS District #3 race where longtime Senator Bob Hertzberg was defeated by West Hollywood Council Member Lindsey Horvath. Hertzberg’s resume, record and long public service was trumped by the youth and new ideas of an up and coming progressive that was successful on November 8th that further tilted LA to the left leaving all five seats on the LA Board of Supervisors an all-female affair.
- Voters like “reform,” even when it isn’t reform at all. The ballot initiative to grant the LA Board of Supervisors the power to remove a sitting elected sheriff with a 4/5ths vote is a dangerous undermining of the will of the electorate. This was a targeted attempt to undermine a potential second term of lame duck Sheriff Alex Villanueva, but the voters opted to turn him out of office anyway. If incoming Sheriff-elect Robert Luna of Long Beach speaks with his legal team, this initiative should face a strong legal challenge.
- LA and in particular Venice remains dirty, ugly, homeless encamped and riddled in crime. Let’s hope those who won will now put the campaign in the rearview mirror and begin the process of healing and getting back to the business of successful governance that will restore the public’s confidence that LA can be operated and managed in a way that responds to what residents really want which is a crime-free community with encampments removed and a quality-of-life we all want back here in Venice and the rest of Los Angeles.
- How long is too long? Does it really take nearly two weeks to get the final results after the County of LA invested in a $300 million voting system in 2020? While we want the results to be transparent and accurate, don’t they need to be tabulated as quickly as possible? This hybrid of in-person voting and Vote by Mail has made the process all the more questionable and controversial! We need a voting system that is accurate, open and does not take forever to cast or count votes. If the people over at PowerBall can calculate a winner within 24 hours, we can certainly count the votes much faster to ensure we don’t lose voter confidence along the way.
So we thank all the candidates for committing themselves to a grueling process and congratulate the winners for your work has just begun and we will be watching.
Now pass the turkey and cranberry sauce!
Happy Thanksgiving wishes to all!
Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venetian and member of the Outreach & Oceanfront Committees of the Venice Neighborhood Council. Antonicello covers the political and governmental scene and how it affects Venice. Have a take or a tip? Feel free to contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org