Earlier this yr, I volunteered to interview the 4 finalists for the 2 L.A. Metropolis Council seats that characterize the Westside. I dutifully sat down with Erin Darling and Traci Park in Council District 11, which is mainly the 405 and factors west, transcribed their interviews and wrote a abstract of what they mentioned. I then sat down with Sam Yebri and Katy Young Yaroslavsky, the finalists in Council District 5, which stretches from the 405 into Koreatown. I posted an article about every of the interviews, full with transcripts and audio for anybody that wished to dive deeper into what was mentioned.
Just about from the second I listened to the recordings, I knew I had made a mistake.
The idea for the interviews was that we might focus actually intently on transportation reform and points which are intently associated. As each the CD5 and CD11 races are just about being fought over points associated to the regional homeless disaster and police reform; I wished to avoid these points as they have been being lined in loads of different locations. As a 501c(3) non-profit publication, Streetsblog legally can’t (and shouldn’t) inform folks methods to vote, however letting readers/listeners hear from the candidates ought to assist voters attain the conclusions on their very own.
However whereas somebody studying the items shouldn’t come away with an concept of how I’d be voting, it ought to assist them determine how they might vote. These items failed in that regard. Considered one of my colleagues mainly advised me the interviews have been so unhealthy that primarily based solely on them, they wouldn’t have any concept who to vote for. A reminder, considered one of these races is named “A Battle for the Soul of the Westside.”
On one hand, that’s a great factor. Streetsblog has mentioned for years that the dialog on transportation and concrete improvement would change when youthful generations took over management from the Child Boomers. On this admittedly small pattern measurement, that seems to be true.
Irrespective of how one feels about present Councilmember Mike Bonin, it’s seemingly that one received’t see an enormous change in transportation coverage no matter whether or not Park or Darling win the election, assuming each candidates will comply with by on what they’ve pledged. The other is true in CD5, the place each candidates can be a leap ahead compared to Councilmember Paul Koretz’s 13 years of blocking bus and bike infrastructure, and stifling planning for current and underneath building Westside transit stations.
However in one other approach, that similarity in how they spoke creates an issue.
Anybody who has paid consideration to those two elections is aware of that these 4 candidates are VERY completely different and have completely different visions for the town. Whereas Darling and Park have been gracious and in settlement on bike and bus lanes, the marketing campaign on the Westside has gotten ugly within the time since with the candidates attacking one another, oftentimes in very private phrases. Darling has zeroed in on Park’s defense of an employer who used the n-word regularly ‘near’ his only Black employee. Park has used Darling’s absences and eventual resignation from the Venice Neighborhood Council to assault his dedication to the district whereas exploring some of the cases Darling tried as a defense attorney.
As well as, the police union has funneled cash into Park’s marketing campaign and supporting PACs permitting her to amplify her message. Darling surrogates, together with Bonin and Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, have connected Park’s legal defense mentioned above to the controversy engulfing the city right now. In case you one way or the other missed it: disgraced former Council President Nury Martinez (who endorsed Park),and Councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo made numerous racist remarks in a 2021 redistricting meeting, audio of which just lately surfaced.
In CD5, the distinction can be very clear. In a four-candidate race in June, Younger Yaroslavsky scored 48.97 % of the vote, almost sufficient to win the election outright and over 19 factors forward of Yebri. Afterwards, each the candidates that completed third and fourth endorsed Younger Yaroslavsky giving Yebri a steep hill to climb.
To make that climb, he has amplified his most controversial positions. Only a fast peek on his Instagram web page shows him decrying an alley that appears to have had a small encampment as akin to the “Third World,” and spoiling the great thing about the theater it was adjoining to. He additionally posted an article from the Washington Examiner which advocates for drone surveillance to prevent crime.
In contrast, Younger Yaroslavsky has saved to a principally constructive marketing campaign that appears to be searching for to not rock the boat between the first and election day in a few weeks.
As I famous, these are very completely different campaigns and really candidates. Whereas they could all agree that Venice Boulevard wants higher bike and bus infrastructure, how they view homelessness and policing issues – and paints a really completely different image of who must be having access to this house and how the town must be creating entry.
Too usually, advocates for transit and transportation enhancements wish to hold a laser deal with how the federal government invests in transportation. I get why folks wish to do this, since I simply did it myself for 4 interviews. And sure, typically it’s going to be simple for individuals who view elections primarily by that lens; there are nonetheless candidates that get confused speaking about transit or don’t perceive why bike and bus lanes exist. However within the circumstances the place it’s going to be tougher, we have to ask some new questions. And by we I imply “me, Damien Newton,” and different advocates who’re privileged and cozy taking a look at transportation points by a slender lens of “what tasks must be constructed,” “how can we fund these tasks,” and “how can we persuade individuals who don’t like these tasks?”
For instance, as a substitute of asking “how can we construct extra housing” or “how can we construct extra inexpensive housing” we should always begin by getting candidates to reply what their understanding of the present housing market is and what are the wants. Who do we have to construct housing for, and what mechanisms can we do to make that housing be constructed? Do we’d like adjustments in metropolis coverage and what are they?
As an alternative of asking about whether or not we’d like extra parks or how can we enhance entry to parks, we should always ask about who we’re offering open house for? In a metropolis that’s each brief on open house and brief on short-term housing and beds in shelters how can we help areas the place everyone seems to be welcome?
And once we discuss policing and security, it will possibly’t simply be a dialog about how we help legislation enforcement efforts. We additionally want to debate how our elected officers can present significant oversight of our police departments. At what level is a councilmember prepared to vote in opposition to a police or sheriff’s finances in the event that they really feel the division isn’t residing as much as its constitution to serve and shield?
It’s 2022, no candidate goes to disclaim how our transportation community impacts local weather, public well being and entry to the group in a Streetsblog interview. If I’ve the chance to speak with candidates once more in 2024 (simply over a yr and a half to the 2024 primaries!), my promise to you is to focus much less on the “what” and way more on the “for whom.”