L.A. city voters sent conflicting messages

Los Angeles City Council member-elect Hugo Soto-Martinez heads to City Hall with what he says has a clear mandate to enact bold, progressive policies on housing, homelessness, transportation and other issues.

Soto-Martinez, who won his race by more than 10,000 votes, said the Nov. 8 election showed residents in his Hollywood district want fewer cops and more mental health teams — and an end to the laws protecting the homeless force to move from certain places areas.

“The progressives won the day,” he said.

Attorney Traci Park also declared victory in a council race last week. And she too says she has received a “clear mandate” for change. But she heard a distinctly different set of demands from voters. Residents of LA’s waterfront neighborhoods, she said, want more cops and stronger enforcement of camp-regulating laws.

“They want to feel safe in their community at the end of the day,” she said.

Voters in this year’s local elections were clearly unhappy with City Hall, ousting two incumbents and rejecting several other LA elected officials who had sought higher office. But the broader political message was more complicated, as candidates at different points on the political spectrum — and with different political views — won their respective contests.

Soto-Martinez and community activist Eunisses Hernandez won their council races with significant help from the LA chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, which supports defunding the police force, abolishing prisons and much larger investments in social services. Hernandez defeated Councilman Gil Cedillo in the June primary, while Soto-Martinez unseated Councilman Mitch O’Farrell in the runoff.

At the same time, voters also delivered victories to a handful of more moderate candidates who positioned themselves closer to the city’s political center — and more in line with the council’s current policy on homelessness and public safety. Among them is park and councilman-elect Tim McOsker, who had the enthusiastic support of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the LAPD’s rank and file officers’ union.

Citywide elected Mayor-elect Karen Bass will likely need her coalition-building skills to bridge these kinds of differences as she seeks to address homelessness, rising housing costs, crime and other issues, said Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director of das Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles.

“They have an upsurge from the left” in this year’s local election, he said. “But you also have an upsurge from the centrist liberal wing. And right in the middle is Karen Bass.”

“The challenge for the mayor,” he added, “is to drive a strategy for the entire community.”

During the campaign, Bass attempted to strike a balance between crime and other issues. She said the LAPD should have about 9,700 officers, nearly 500 more than the department has now. But she has also promised to have a separate office for community security, one that the police department would not involve.

“I know that there are parts of the city that want to become more visible [police] Present. They’re not usually our neighborhoods,” Bass told Tavis Smiley, a radio host on KBLA Talk 1580, last week. “Our neighborhoods want serious investment in prevention, intervention, and the services to prevent crime in the first place. And I think I can make a big dent in that.

Zach Seidl, a Bass spokesman, said the phrase “our neighborhoods” refers to South Los Angeles.

Bass will take office the same day as Hernandez, who said in a candidate questionnaire that the police shouldn’t play a role in her community. Hernandez, whose district stretches from Highland Park to Pico-Union, supports increased spending on mental health professionals, public health workers and other unarmed responders.

Los Angeles Mayor-elect Karen Bass greets her supporters at the Wilshire Ebell Theater on Thursday.

Los Angeles Mayor-elect Karen Bass greets her supporters at the Wilshire Ebell Theater on Thursday.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

On the evening of the election, the contrasts between the winning candidates became immediately clear. Soto-Martinez at his victory party at Atwater Village said the town was being “torn apart” by real estate developers and police unions. Across town, voters handed a 30-point victory to McOsker, who had spent much of the last decade as a registered lobbyist for developers and the LAPD union.

The conflicting messages were not limited to the Council races.

Political science professor Fernando Guerra, who directs the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, said two other down-ballot contests — City Controller and City Attorney — became “mirrors” of each other when the results came in.

In the race for city controller, voters overwhelmingly chose certified public accountant Kenneth Mejia, who used his campaign to highlight the size of the LAPD budget, which he “bloated.” Mejia said during the campaign that he would send auditors any major protest monitor LAPD officers. He also opposed the city’s ban on homeless camps outside of public schools.

Mejia, a former member of the Green Party, received more than 60% of the vote.

Porter Ranch attorney Faisal Gill delivered similar messages during his campaign as city attorney, promising to hold the LAPD accountable and speaking out strongly against the city’s anti-camp statute, which he called unconstitutional. Still, he lost by double digits to his opponent, attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto, who took more moderate positions and was supported by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.

Feldstein Soto defended the anti-warehouse law, saying she believed it would stand up to legal challenge if properly enforced. Bass dealt a serious blow to Gill, while running her own campaign, by withdrawing her consent to his candidacy for city attorney last summer, weeks after he won first place in the June primary.

A Bass spokesman said at the time that Bass “absolutely” disagreed with Gill’s plan to impose a 100-day moratorium on prosecuting a range of misdemeanor charges.

Although the LA election delivered mixed messages on certain city policies, voters were much clearer in their view of City Hall. Voters ousted two council members and defeated four city elected officials who had hoped to win higher office — a clear sign of public discontent, said Guerra, a Loyola Marymount University professor.

Los Angeles City Council member-elect Traci Park speaks at the Cow's End Cafe in Venice in August.

Los Angeles City Council member-elect Traci Park chats with people at the Cow’s End Cafe in Venice in August. She says voters gave a “clear mandate for change.”

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Guerra said Park’s election to a vacant council seat on LA’s West Side also reflects a desire for change, having campaigned as a fierce critic of council member Mike Bonin, who is stepping down next month.

Bonin had called for fewer police, presided over a reduction of about 800 LAPD officers and opposed the law banning homeless encampments near schools and daycares. Throughout the campaign, Park promised to chart a different course.

“All voters wanted change,” Guerra said. “But their version of the change varied by neighborhood.”

Park described herself as a “moderate, pragmatic, common-sense Democrat” and said she supports the idea of ​​supplementing the police force with social workers and mental health counselors. But she claims it shouldn’t be an “either/or” proposition with the LAPD. She also said that the vast majority of council members “agree on most things.”

“If we lean into the areas where we agree and stay civil in our disagreements, we can really come together as a city,” said Park, a Venice resident.

For his part, Soto-Martinez said he intends to pursue a number of big initiatives. He wants to increase the size of the council, saying it will grow to 31 members first and eventually 51 members. He also promised stronger tenant protections and more bike lanes in the district, which includes neighborhoods like Echo Park, Silver Lake and Historic Filipinotown.

Hotel and Restaurant Union organizer Soto-Martinez said he too expects to work with his colleagues. He praised McOsker, who will represent a San Pedro-to-Watts district, saying he “understands the city and is very passionate about environmental and labor issues.”

Los Angeles City Councilman-elect Tim McOsker will represent boroughs from San Pedro to Watts.

Los Angeles City Councilman-elect Tim McOsker, who will represent neighborhoods from San Pedro to Watts, says he’s “very centrist.”

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

“Yes, he worked for the police union,” Soto-Martinez said. “But I don’t think it describes the whole of who he is. He is a very good person, very experienced in the building.”

McOsker, a former aide to Mayor James Hahn, said he expects to be politically at the center of the council, not on its right flank.

“I feel very centrist,” he said. “I’m going to be better at police reform than most because I get it.”

Another freshman elected to the city council this year is Katy Young Yaroslavsky, daughter-in-law of District Commissioner Zev Yaroslavsky and former assistant to District Commissioner Sheila Kuehl. Yaroslavsky ran slightly to the left of attorney Sam Yebri in her race to succeed council member Paul Koretz, but she expects to be politically at the center of the council.

This year’s election will give City Hall a chance for a fresh start, she said.

“There are many opportunities for us in LA to make tangible progress and shake things up in many different areas,” she said. “And I’m happy to be a part of it.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-11-22/los-angeles-city-election-had-mixed-messages-with-candidates-on-the-left-and-center-winning L.A. city voters sent conflicting messages

Alley Einstein

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