December 2, 2009
Special Election or Secret Election:The Race for L.A.’s Council District 2
Activist and author Gore Vidal once said: “Half of the American people never read a newspaper. Half never vote for president. One hopes it is the same half.” If you are reading this article, you are probably part of the half of people who do pay attention to world happenings and elections. But does this include local politics? Do you know who your councilmember is or when the next city election is? Do you care what goes on at City Hall?
This Tuesday, Dec. 8, Angelenos in City Council District 2 are being asked to vote in a special run-off election. District 2 is huge, encompassing Lakeview Terrace, La Tuna Canyon, North Hollywood, Shadow Hills, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Sunland, Tujunga, Valley Village, Valley Glen and Van Nuys.
It’s an election so special, almost no one is talking about it. Like many off-cycle elections before, this special election is set to become a “secret” election — something no one knows about and no one cares about.
In the special primary election held for this seat on Sept. 22, only 16,000 out of a possible 125,000 registered voters cast ballots for the then-10 candidates. Now the race is winnowed down to two candidates, Paul Krekorian and Christine Essel, and if previous city elections are anything to go by, those who voted for the losing eight candidates in the first election are likely to stay home. Whoever gets elected on Dec. 8 will win with less than 7 percent of the potential vote.
Los Angeles is a city where elected officials must raise and spend millions in the course of a campaign. Yet outside of campaign years, neither they nor anyone else spend a dime, if that, to get voters engaged in local elections or to get them to pay attention to what our officials in City Hall are doing. Local TV coverage is slim, usually focusing on Election Day itself, and the once-vibrant local section of the Los Angeles Times is dwindling. In addition, large district sizes and poor outreach on the part of our elected officials means it becomes embarrassingly easy to not know what’s going on in our city, and most people are pretty sure that whatever is going on doesn’t affect them all that much.
So for the 80 percent of you out there who don’t think city elections matter, let me bring you up to speed. Los Angeles is heading for a quake, and I don’t mean an earthquake. Los Angeles faces upwards of a $400 million budget shortfall, an unemployment rate over 10 percent, a failing public school system, decrepit roads and rising homeless numbers. Last year the city raised our phone and trash taxes, and just recently the DWP doubled our water and power bills, our meter prices and parking tickets nearly doubled, and we still don’t have enough public transportation. These are a few of the critical issues our 15 City Council members and mayor need to work on. These aren’t secrets that we can pretend don’t apply to us. They will affect all of our lives and our wallets. Do we really want these decisions to be made by people who are only accountable to so few Angelenos?
Next Tuesday voters in District 2 will be asked to choose between assemblymember Paul Krekorian and former studio executive Christine Essel. Krekorian is a progressive leader who has fought for fiscal reform, for better schools and a greener state. Essel has served on L.A. City commissions and worked as an advocate for business and industry. Essel has rallied many City Council and business association endorsements, and Krekorian has strong Democratic Party backing and neighborhood activist endorsements. You decide who will be a better person to represent your interests.
As Jews, our power to be agents of change in this city is stronger than you think. In the Sept. 22 election, the potential 9,000 Jewish voters would have been more than half of the total number of votes cast, but only 1,400 voted.
Most Angelenos don’t know that the City Council affects their lives as much, if not more so, than what goes on in Washington, D.C. Now you know, so tell the “secret.” Be an Angeleno for accountability. Make sure that you and at least one other person always votes local. l
To learn more about the candidates and the election, visit this article at jewishjournal.com.
Adeena Bleich is the founder of CiviCare, an organization working to educate and empower Jewish voters in local elections, and a former Los Angeles City Council candidate. She can be reached at CiviCare@gmail.com.