San Francisco City College scandal details are being covered up and the liberal media is complacent about it

CityCollegeSanFranciscoLogoSan Francisco City College, where Heisman Trophy winner (and former Hunter’s Point resident) O. J. Simpson played football from 1965-67, and with 85,000 students the largest public school in California, is in big trouble.   Last week it lost its accreditation of its degree programs, to go into effect at the end of July, 2014.  It will lose all public funding at that time unless the situation can be reversed.  This week state bureaucrats also stripped the elected Board of Trustees of all governing powers at the College, appointing a “special trustee” to run the place and try to fix it, to gain back accreditation for future students.

We know that much.  What we don’t know much about are the facts that lead to San Francisco City College losing its accreditation!  And that is because the media isn’t digging into the story to try to find out for California taxpayers exactly what the heck happened at SF City College!

The San Francisco Chronicle has a webpage that collects all their stories on the scandal, which they claim to have been covering for the last two years.  But other than revealing information about the on-going accreditation problem, and quoting labor representatives about their negotiations and contract disputes with the campus, and telling us there is a problem at SF City College, in very general terms, there are surprisingly very few actual facts that have been publicly revealed that support the extreme sanction of de-certification.  Somebody is pretty clearly hiding meaningful facts of wrongdoing at the school from the public view.  And the main stream news media seems to be going along with the blackout on specific facts, as a careful review of the articles reveals they are printing only very sketchy stories about problematic facts, and never associating any facts offered with a named individual.  I think the lack of information is being engineered by state officials and the nonprofit accrediting commission, plus a sympathetic liberal San Francisco media, who are shielding from public view the teachers’ union members that pilfered taxpayer money and engaged in the incompetent teaching and administration.  Their actions have made a degree from the publicly supported College now pretty much worthless, and they ought to be outed.  Taxpayers have a right to know and understand all the facts involving their public institutions, whether they be the IRS or San Francisco City College.

Here is what we know beyond the above that has been reported:  The Chronicle reported on 7/9/13, and the accrediting commission had already posted on its website, that the College lost its accreditation because of “ineffective leadership,” but the Chronicle has not effectively challenged the accrediting commission to disclose facts that tell us exactly what constitutes “ineffective leadership” and the commission is mum about the specifics in its documents that have been made public.  More information needs to be disclosed to taxpayers here.

We know from a 7/3/13 story in the Chronicle that the College is “beset by mismanagement” but no facts are offered in the article to tell us exactly what conduct supports the mismanagement, and what mismanagement means.  We also learn in this article that the accrediting commission identified 14 areas for improvement about a year ago and determined recently that the College only responded with action on two of the recommendations, but we are not offered any facts supporting just how the College failed in the 12 areas of improvement the accrediting commission said needed corrective action.  No names, no details and no narrative about the facts have been made public by officials, nor has the SF media dug up and reported any such hard facts.  Only summary information has been made public, and the media isn’t trying very hard to pierce the veil.  And readers should keep in mind this is information that has been used to usurp the elected representatives from their authority on the Board of Trustees.

We learn just snipets of what the real scandal at City College is from prior stories in the Chronicle.  One story obliquely reports that there were “problems in the payroll system” because “too many people” had access to the system, and that employees were likely paid for work they didn’t do over a long period of time.  (Taypayer money mind you!)  But no names or witnesses are quoted on exactly who was overpaid and by how much.  And even then a sympathetic Chronicle reporter offsets the payroll fraud allegation by quoting a union representative who said “sometimes we were underpaid too!”  What we do not know are the specifics of the payroll scandal, who the responsible parties were, whether teachers came forward to return overpayments, how much taxpayers were ripped-off, if at all, and what plans the College has to get taxpayers’ money back.

We know from a 6/7/13 story in the Chronicle that the accrediting commission that met to strip City College of its accreditation, did so in private and would not allow either the public or the media to sit in on the meeting where the commission considered the facts.

We know the Chronicle has published extensively about the closed nature of the accrediting commission and its work, from a 3/5/13 story.  But we do not see corresponding efforts and stories from the Chronicle focused on who exactly did the alleged wrongdoing on the City College campus in the first place, and what they got away with, and for how long.

The Los Angeles Times did a terrific job of covering the financial scandal in the City of Bell, where a small group of greedy civil servants stole millions from taxpayers over many years, and a city manager paid off councilmembers and paid himself a gross salary of over $800,000 a year.  The Bell employees were forced to stand trial for their misdeeds.  But it took time for the Times to jump on the story.  The Times’ work nevertheless, helped get regulators to jump on the story and start the process in law to fix things.  The San Francisco Chronicle ought to take a page out of the LA Times’ notebook.  There has probably been civil or criminal wrongdoing at City College involving taxpayer funds.  This is a very reasonable conclusion, and it deserves more focus by the Chronicle and San Francisco law enforcement officials, and San Francisco’s otherwise silent elected officials, instead of shadowy protection of unionized wrongdoers by the liberal establishment.

The Sequester is a Really Good Thing and We Need More Sequesters

Just as Christopher Walken demands “more cowbell!” in a famous episode of Saturday Night Live, conservatives should be demanding “more sequester!”

The sequester, formally named the “Budget Control Act of 2011”, was a “kick-the-can-down-the-road” solution to our national addiction to overspending.  Lawmakers knew we were overspending in 2011, but could not agree on what to cut.  So they set-up a law creating a “manufactured crisis” that won support of both Democrats and Republicans.  Rather than agree immediately to specific cuts, the law would give Washington, D.C. some time to figure out what to cut, and if they could not agree, then mandatory cuts of everything would go into affect in 2013,  That is how we got here.  But some conservatives are starting to believe the sequester is not such a big crisis at all, as it has been in effect for over four months without really dire government closures, and recent disclosures of incompetent Federal spending are helping to make the case in the news that spending needs to be reigned in.  It may even be that the sequester is a really great idea for Federal spending reduction.  And given our spending problems, America really does need more of it.

Total federal spending this year is at about $3.8 trillion, but receipts for the year are expected to be less than $3 trillion and the national debt is above $17 trillion.  We are still deficit spending every year, and mandatory increases in so-called “entitlement” spending continue to dog the national budget.  As a result of the Obama Administration’s and Congresses’ failure to agree on specific cuts, mandatory across-the-board Federal spending cuts are now in place under the sequester in order to offset further growth of the Federal deficit.

But the reality is the sequester cuts will only amount to $1.2 trillion and the Federal government has 10 years to implement them!  The cuts are evenly split between domestic spending and defense spending.  According to one recent news report, in 2013, $42.7 billion (7.9 percent) will be cut from the defense budget, $28.7 billion (5.3 percent) in domestic discretionary funding will be cut, Medicare will take a $9.9 (2 percent) reduction and another $4 billion in cuts to defense and nondefense programs will be made.  As the sequester continues in 2014 cuts rise from the 2013 level of $85.4 billion to $109.3 billion a year, until the cuts hit the $1.2 trillion mark over 10 years.  No programs are eliminated but the size – and cost – of programs will be reduced.

In context, the sequester seems like a pretty reasonable manner in which to reduce America’s terribly out-of-control spending.  And it is not like there isn’t enough waste, fraud and abuse in current government spending that can’t be the first targets of sequester budget cuts!  Last year the State Department spent $630,000 on Facebook ads trying to get more “Likes” on its Facebook page.  Give us more cuts on that program!  The IRS spent $50 million on conferences and travel last year that included line-dancing lessons, a “Star Trek” instructional video, and misuse of government credit cards for purchase of on-line pornography.  Cut the IRS party budget, more cowbell!  Year before last the General Services Administration spent $8 million just for transportation of Federal workers to 77 conferences and parties nationwide; and in 2010 held an infamous $823,000 party in Las Vegas for just 300 attendees that featured clowns and a mind-reader.  Cut, cut, cut!   Simply eliminating most GSA and IRS partying and State Department internet advertising would save the Federal government over $60 million – and that’s almost 5% of the total sequester requirement, in just one year!  In context, the sequester is just a “drop-in-the-bucket.”  The targets of ridiculous Federal spending are becoming more and more obvious as the IRS and other agency scandals undergo needed additional investigation by their Inspector Generals.  The “IGs” should keep up their good work.  And in the meantime, give us more sequester!

Utah Congressman: Obama Impeachment “Not Off the Table”

130310_jason_chaffetz_ap_605Congressman Jason Chaffetz is considered a smart, if brash, Republican member of Congress who was elected a few years ago by opposing an entrenched establishment conservative who had lost touch with party faithful in the Beehive State.  A former place-kicker for the BYU Cougars, Chaffetz has excelled as Congressman and has built strong credibility with other Republican members of Congress, and has had a knack for being at the center of issues, such as the Benghasi tragedy, Obamacare, and the fiscal cliff and sequester debates.

And now Chaffetz has really done it:  he has used the “impeachment” word.  In doing so, Chaffetz elevates the concerns millions of Americans have about the appearance of extensive corruption in the Obama Administration.  The word deserves to be used, whether the Congress does so or not.  Recent disclosures by no less than the Washington Post that in 2010 the Obama Administration engaged in covert spying on Fox News report James Rosen, by tapping his email traffic, monitoring his movements at the State Department, and collecting the reporter’s telephone records, are among the most chilling of the recent series of disclosures, blunders, and outright lies that have been exposed regarding Obama’s Benghasi, Associated Press, and IRS political targeting scandals.  Imagine if George W. Bush had engaged in such activities!  Impeachment articles would have already been introduced in Congress.

Whether or not impeachment proceeds, it is about time that a member of Congress stand-up and use the word, even if it serves only as an expression of the deep distrust Americans are beginning to have about the serious flaws of this Administration.  Good for you, Jason!

1 millionth Page View to hit this week for California Political Review!

Square-Logo2-150x150When the editors launched California Political Review online in the Fall of 2011, about 18 months ago, though we were starting from scratch, we had high hopes.  Those high hopes will come into reality in the next couple of days as the milestone one millionth new “window,” referred to as a Page View, on one of our stories is opened on the personal computer or hand-held device of one of our readers.  Few blogs can claim they have enjoyed one million unique views, let alone in a short time-line and on a blog dedicated to fairly high-brow California political commentary.  But there is more good news as well: CPR’s daily email newsletter subscription list now tops 5,000 subscribers; we have received and posted over 10,000 written comments to articles from readers, and we have a solid 19,000 plus Facebook fans!  And according to current “Alexa” ratings for the last three-month period, California Political Review is the most visited of the top four conservative-oriented California-centric blogs in the state.

We thank our readers for trusting our site for interesting news and commentary and we pledge to work hard to continue to serve you!

Santa Monica is now making communist even the PTA

sickle1Californians are so reflexively supportive of school funding, having enacted initiative after initiative for school construction funding, a state lottery to supplement education funds, and a constitutional guarantee that education is the biggest line item in the state budgt, that the liberal establishment has for years also had the local Parents and Teachers Associations (“PTAs”) hood-winked into thinking they need to engage in widespread private fundraising to provide additional supplemental funds for local schools to “buy erasers and chalk.”

One example is the PTA in Point Dune Elementary in Malibu, which was able to hold golf tournaments, fundraising dinners and book fairs to raise $2,100 per child during the 2009-2010 school year to help pay for music and art programs, as well as a dedicated marine science lab. Malibu sits in the Santa Monica-Malibu School District, which combines the two coastal cities into one governing board. Santa Monica, always dominated by liberal politics, is a city of 90,000 compared to Malibu’s 13,000. But Santa Monica has a lower median income per family, and the PTAs in Santa Monica do not take as active an interest in fundraising projects for their own schools as do Malibu residents.

Predictably, the governing board of the school district, controlled by liberal members from dominant Santa Monica, have developed a plan to “equalize” what they consider to be the “disparity” in the private PTA support within the school district. Their plan is to take control of and centralize all PTA supplemental fundraising projects in the district into one private charity controlled by the school board, and then redistribute the private contributions “equitably” between schools both in Malibu and Santa Monica.

In other words, donors in Malibu who want to provide supplemental funds to assist their own children in schools in their own community, will have most of their donations diverted to schools that their children do not attend. The plan of course will probably result in a drop-off of PTA participation by Malibu residents in future, and children will suffer as a result. It can be labeled classic “money redistribution” and has been called “ludicrous” by one Malibu High School parent.

Californians are indeed generous with schools and have vigorously responded to school needs at the ballot box, such as the Proposition 30 tax increase, and through private philanthropy. But the liberal education establishment that controls things has their own dark agenda at work throughout the system, gobbling up tax money intended for the classroom and diverting it to high salaries and benefits, and now “communizing” even private sector donations.

Will California Face Terrorism Threat?

California needs to update its State Terrorism Threat Assessment System and the time to do so is now.

There are a host of homeland security and counter-terrorism agencies at work in California, as might be expected in the nation’s most heavily populated state.  In a state whose domestic product is bigger than the entire nation of Russia, and because of our strategic placement on the Pacific Rim and with an international border to our south with our neighbor, Mexico, troubled by narcotics related terror acts, assessing terrorist threats and having the capability to prevent terrorist acts and respond quickly when they occur are absolutely essential to protect our citizens.  If we can spend billions on a bullet train from Bakersfield to Modesto, we ought to be able to have a crack counter-terrorism strategy and capability in this state.

But we do not.  California’s most recent formal threat assessment was published over three years ago.  The Federal government and Homeland Security in California relies on the California Highway Patrol and local police departments, and the California Department of Emergency Services, along with fire departments and other public safety agencies to assume the first response role in the event of a terrorist attack here.  Is the California Highway Patrol ready?

The Brown Administration started furloughing 1,600 CHP officers last July as part of an agreement to reduce costs to help meet the state budget deficit.  Ironically, the CHP officers association was the first state labor agency to come forward and voluntarily agree to accept what amounted to a 5% pay cut, in contrast to the balance of 214,000 state workers that held on for the election-night result of the Governor’s Proposition 30 tax increase.  There is no doubt that California overpays its state workers and provides pension benefits far beyond the state’s capability to pay them.  But cutting back on public safety workers like the CHP and fire departments at a time when domestic terrorism such as hit Boston yesterday is not forward thinking.  California indeed needs to balance its budget; but it should not do so at the expense of life-saving agencies and first responders.

California needs a new counter-terrorism plan.  What it needs right now is a thorough up-date to its three year old counter-terrorism plan.  And it needs to prioritize spending in a manner that puts top priority on first responders.images

Jimmy Carter was completely wrong on Korean troop withdrawal

North Korea and its sociopath twenty-something Communist Dictator, Kim Jung Un, the son of former Dictator Kim Jung Il, and the grandson of former Dictator Kim Il Sung, warns it is in a “state of war.”  The rogue country, officially considered the equivalent of a “terrorist” state by the U.S government, now possesses nuclear warheads, has tested a nuclear device, and has also successfully tested inter-continental ballistic missiles that could be capable of reaching American targets and interests in the Pacific Ocean, let alone its other neighbors and its South Korean opponents.

But while the U.S. military and our 28,000 or so troops in South Korea, and our allies are considering both their intelligence reports and what truth there is in the threatening rhetoric of North Korea, and have flown B-2 stealth bombers and steamed U.S. nuclear aircraft carriers to the region in a show of force, and as tensions rise, many of us might remember the repeated failures of the role played by Jimmy Carter on the Korean Peninsula, which have surely contributed mightily to the world’s tensions today, and the lessons to be learned from confronting a warmongering dictator in Korea with cotton candy.

Jimmy Carter, the failed American Democratic President, who in just four short years between 1976 and 1980 gave away the Panama Canal, presided over an inflation crisis, an energy crisis, an unemployment crisis, and the taking of American hostages in Iran and a botched rescue mission, who forced U.S. athletes to boycott the Olympics, who “de-recognized” the Republic of China on Taiwan as the legal democratic government of China and rendered that friendly nation and ally to lower than diplomatic status, and who was thrown out of office after one term by voters in favor of Ronald Reagan, was also wrong about something else: his campaign promise to withdraw all U.S. troops from South Korea.

The Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin, by Fred Hoffman, published in 2002 a newsletter detailing Jimmy Carter’s misguided determination to withdraw all U.S. military forces in South Korea.  Carter’s personal decision to extract the United States from protecting people in South Korea from North Korean tyranny reveals his very poor judgment in matters dealing with real human rights.  According to the Bulletin, (which I am drawing on in this piece) while campaigning for President as early as January 1975, Carter declared that if elected he would order the withdrawal of all U.S. ground forces from the Korean peninsula.  Less than a week after he was elected, in January 1977, Carter indeed issued orders to begin the withdrawal.  For the next two-and-a-half years, Carter fought the protests of Congress, America’s allies in Asia, and military intelligence, and actually withdrew 3,600 U.S. ground forces that had been protecting South Koreans.  Carter took these actions despite the fact that within just a few years, the North’s fellow Communists in nearby North Vietnam had broken the Paris Peace accords and invaded and conquered the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).

Carter took his position on unilateral withdrawal disregarding the fact that military tensions remained high between North Korea and the United States. In 1968, North Korea seized a U.S. naval ship, the Pueblo.  In 1974, tunnels were discovered that were dug under the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, dug by the North Korean communist government.  Clearly, Carter’s position had little justification from a military standpoint, or from the standpoint of standing up to international Communist aggression.  Unilateral withdrawal gained no corresponding peace gesture from North Korea.  Carter’s  position was to be a nonsensical pacifist; and by withdrawing U.S. forces, Carter was not only abandoning the aspirations for freedom of the Korean people and jeopardizing the stability of Japan, he was also doing North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung’s dirty work for him.  If Carter had his way, South Korea would most surely have been invaded by now without a fight from the United States, and millions more would be living under Kim Jung Un’s nightmarish Communist dictatorship.

During Bill Clinton’s presidency, yet another North Korean crisis developed over that country’s use and enrichment of uranium.  “Hot” diplomacy ensued and Clinton’s choice of a “special Ambassador” to reason with the North Korean Communist Dictator was…..Jimmy Carter, who came out of retirement to negotiate an agreement with the North Koreans that was supposed to limit their uranium use and enrichment to peaceful purposes.  Carter had his way that time, and his effort clearly proved to be yet another foreign policy disaster for our nation.  Because of Carter’s poor perceptions in diplomacy, and given North Korea’s test of a massive underground nuclear explosion on February 12, a wholly contrary result to Carter’s mission, his “special Ambassador” status can be seen as a complete failure.  Rather than stopping nuclear proliferation, Carter played the role of a patsy to a Communist Dictatorship, one that has now joined the “nuclear weapons club” of nations and today gravely threatens the free world.

What American policy needed when Carter was president was more troops, not less in Korea; and a stronger military hand.  Reagan proved that point in his policies, which helped topple communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.  But Carter’s policies to the contrary lost four years in Korea.  And what America needed when it negotiated North Korean’s nuclear fission policy was a tough realist as the top negotiator actually dedicated to stopping nuclear proliferation, not a Jimmy Carter.

Carter’s utter failure on Korea is sadly a failure now affecting new generations of Americans, and Asians, born into freedom many years after he was thrown out of office, but who now must bear the brunt of his poor decisions.  It is a terrible legacy for a President.  Obama has much to learn from Carter’s failures on the Korean Peninsula, and may God help us in the days ahead.


California Republicans now have a new start

Sunday’s election of former State Senate Republican Leader Jim Brulte to lead the party, along with a new slate of statewide GOP officers, by the 1,000 delegates meeting in Sacramento, opens a new chapter in California politics. Having thoroughly checked-out the recent convention ourselves this weekend, we think the process of rebuilding the party into a viable political force for lower taxes and less government spending and regulation has begun, and in earnest.

After combined catastrophic losses in both the 2010 and 2012 elections, and now $800,000 in debt, one might think that the state Republican party shouldn’t have much of a future.  But by the day before he was elected, Brulte was on his way to raising close to $300,000 to close that budget gap, and we suspect his ample skill sets at political strategy and fundraising will balance the Party’s books by summer and set it on its way to actually making urgently needed gains in the Legislature and among California’s Congressional seats next year.  Demonstrating the importance of the Golden State’s GOP, and the need to field strong candidates, Brulte’s friend, the esteemed political consultant Karl Rove, addressed the delegates on Saturday during lunch and to cheers he told them to “get off the mat,” meaning, Republicans can win elections in California but they need to raise themselves up, dust themselves off, re-evaluate, and get right back into the fray with our liberal Democratic rivals.

Only time will tell if the state GOP’s new, more professional leadership will make a difference for Republicans in this state.  But as it was summed up by so many this weekend, we have nowhere to go but up!

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

Jim Brulte for California GOP Chairman

Jim Brulte is quietly but earnestly meeting with Republican, business community and conservative leaders across the state of California to discuss the sorry status of our Grand Old Party here.  And the consensus is things couldn’t be worse for Republicans in the Golden State.

In the 2010 election, Democrats swept through and held every single statewide office for the first time in decades.  To make matters worse, after two more years of mismanaged attempts to “re-build” the party, Democrats in 2012 made further advances by achieving veto-proof “supermajorities” in both the state Assembly and the state Senate, giving them the power to raise taxes without need for one Republican vote.  We lost four incumbent Congressional seats statewide to the Democrats in 2012.  Long-labored, and frankly internally divisive efforts to elect a Republican Mayor in San Diego fizzled-out in the final days of the November election.  Suddenly, politics has spun on its axis in Sacramento and Governor Jerry Brown’s veto threat has become the only thing standing between a person’s property and the tax man.  And adding insult to injury, the Secretary of State has recently reported that Republican Party registration statewide has sunk to just 29%, a most pitiful reality.  The Republican Party has become almost irrelevant here in just two election cycles.

The decline of the Republican Party in California did not come unpredicted.  I recall sitting-in on a meeting of consultants exactly two years ago in Jim Brulte’s Sacramento office where he matter-of-factly predicted it would all happen, unless Republicans could “wake up,” better organize themselves, and rise to the practical political challenges the party faces in California.  That didn’t happen and things got worse, not better, just as Brulte had predicted.

This next March, the delegates to the state Republican Party will choose a new Chairman at their convention, and if he runs, I am going to vote for Jim Brulte, because I feel the party risks becoming permanently irrelevant as a political force in our state unless we can engage serious, well-experienced leadership to help reverse its precipitous decline and instead build enthusiasm and support for our conservative cause among California’s increasingly diverse electorate.  We need to win some important elections, badly.  And I think Jim Brulte can help us do that.

Brulte, hailing from the Inland Empire, served as an aide to Senator Sam Hayakawa as a young man, became part of Ronald Reagan’s advance team, and served in both the Assembly and the State Senate as Republican Leader of both Houses.  He is considered a “Capitol insider” by the media, and that he is, working in his business California Strategies on behalf of businesses and organizations that have major investments in and a stake in California.  Brulte is a conservative, and also a realist.  He understands the underpinnings of the Tea Party, and he also understands that now, Republicans cannot have any influence on the process at all going forward unless we start winning elections.

There was a time, when Ronald Reagan was governor, that the chairman of the California Republican Party hailed from our state’s important business boardrooms or agriculture industry, or had served as a medical or legal professional with real-life experience, and those chairmen could get their telephone calls answered when, as volunteers, they managed our Party to some significant statewide successes.  In the last few election cycles, our Party has sadly lost that very important type of “gravitas” in its leadership, a gravitas which leads to success.

Respected conservatives and state GOP leaders have already started to close ranks behind Brulte.  State Party Vice-Chairman Steve Baric, a Rancho Santa Margarita Councilman, has endorsed Brulte’s chairman campaign.  That is a big statement, given Baric’s close links to Republican volunteer groups and the fact that he himself could have made a run for the position with good support from party activists.  So too has Jon Fleischman, a former California GOP Executive Director, conservative leader, and the publisher of the influential FlashReport blog.  Many Republican members of the state legislature have also stepped forward to urge Brulte to make the run, including early supporter, Orange County Assemblyman Don Wagner.

California is currently essentially a “one-party” state.  Democracy itself is threatened by that.  And now, Democrats in Sacramento are actively taking aim at dismantling as best they can the People’s right to vote on initiatives, by loading the process up with more regulations, limiting its availability and making qualification of initiatives more expensive, rather than, for example, opening up the ballot qualification process to new technologies.  If something is not done to bring balance back into the political equation by improving the prospects of the Republican Party, we may even lose our initiative rights altogether in this state, which would clear the way for unbridled dominance of liberal Democrats for decades.  No one person will be the savior for Republicanism in California.  But if Jim Brulte, with all his capabilities and experience, indeed runs for chairman and wins, we will surely be able to put up the better and good fight in the marketplace of ideas that Californians deserve.

L.A. Mayor KABC Debate Misfocused

Candidates for Mayor of Los Angeles faced-off last night in a one-hour televised debate that sadly, in the midst of a blooming double-dip recession, was focused on highly general environmental policy rather than job growth and policies to improve economic conditions.  As a means to elicit useful contrasting information from the candidates, it was simply “a dud”, as most of the questions generated by the League of Conservation Voters, tasked with the responsibility for generating the questions, were soft-balls such as “how do you get to work,” rather than the types of questions Los Angeles voters really care about from their elected officials, such as “what will you do to avoid a city bankruptcy.”

Four candidates for Mayor were featured in the debate although a total of twenty candidates are on the ballot.  Those featured included four of the five top money raising candidates, namely, current L.A. Controller Wendy Greuel, Councilwoman Jan Perry, Councilman Eric Garcetti, and former U.S. Attorney and radio talk show host Kevin James.  Austin Beutner, who is actually in the number three slot in total contributions raised before the debate, was either excluded or chose not to debate.

The debate aired on KABC and was ably moderated by Marc Brown.  The debate was so mechanical that it ended with two minutes to spare, and Brown jumped in and asked the most interesting of the soft-ball questions of the debate, asking each candidate to reveal their “favorite place” in Los Angeles.  I thought that was an excellent question and it drew smiles from the candidates and some great responses, revealing personal connections to the city.

Among the top performers in the debate were Kevin James and Jan Perry.  At one point in the debate a questioner asked one of the few really useful questions, asking what the positions of the candidates for Mayor would be on a sales tax increase measure that may be placed on the same ballot.  Garcetti got the first response and he completely dodged the question, babbling on about improved economic conditions in his own council district.  Greuel responded in the same manner, using her time to talk in highly general terms about economic conditions but completely dodging the question.  Then it was Kevin James’ turn, and he squarely stated “I am the third person to be asked but I will be the first person to actually answer the question” and he stated he opposed a sales tax increase because it would be bad for creating jobs and would hurt economic conditions. He stated he had signed the ballot argument against such a measure.  The question then went to Jan Perry, who represents south central Los Angeles on the Council, and she stated she also opposed a sales tax increase.  In later questioning Greuel went off theme to state she also opposes a sales tax increase in Los Angeles, but Garcetti made no such clarification later in the debate.

Of the candidates, Garcetti was quite polished and rehearsed but lacked charisma.  He seemed almost like a robot in discussing his accomplishments and intentions for Los Angeles.  Greuel was also somewhat mechanical in her responses but showed some charm and underscored that she is a life-long Angelino and mentioned her service in the Clinton Administration.  However, she greatly over-reached when she directly took on James by claiming he had a “radical right wing” radio talk show.  James pushed back on that statement simply by saying she mischaracterised his show.  Kevin James was the candidate with the ideas.  He started the debate with serious passion but seemed to become more comfortable as it progressed, smiling more and perhaps relaxing a little more as the debate developed.  He repeatedly laid the blame for L.A.’s problems on its current leaders, including all three of his elected opponents on stage, and casted himself as an outsider who can better fix L.A.’s problems.  He castigated the incumbents for contributing to the L.A. film industry’s troubles through over-regulation and poor policies.  He would not “bite” on simplistic questions about “plastic vs. paper bags” articulated to obtain predictable responses from all the other candidates.  He reminded the audience that he had headed an important charity fighting AIDS.  He did a great job.

Jan Perry did a very good job too.  I was surprised by her response that she opposed the sales tax increase and her further statement that she also had signed the ballot argument against it.  She spoke with passion about improving conditions in south Los Angeles, and she also focused, as did James, on the specific need for improving investment and creating jobs, especially on her accomplishments in developing new investment downtown (she has been a big backer of the L.A. Live area, which has been such a success) and the University Village plan to dramatically improve businesses and services around the University of Southern California.

The KABC debate questions were exclusively drawn up by the League of Conservation Voters and the League of Woman Voters.  That was a mistake.  The debate should have included representatives from the Los Angeles business and employment communities among the questioners, the film industry, trade unions, and more, and because of the absence of such representatives, the debate contained a lot of fluff on issues of secondary importance and not enough substance.  Hopefully future debate formats will include more meaningful issues and force the candidates to address them, like jobs, taxes, spending and the economy, waste and fraud,

Los Angeles Mayor candidate Kevin James

and reducing gang violence and crime.