In Los Angeles, Should Incumbent Council Members be Replaced?

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In the City’s March 8 election, six incumbent Council members are running for reelection. Paul Krekorian, Tom LaBonge, Tony Cardenas, Bernard C. Parks, Herb J. Wesson, Jr., and Jose Huizar will soon complete their current terms, and are running to retain their Council seats.

All six of these Council members have opponents; but they also have the substantial advantage of incumbency. Normally, they would be favored to win their races. But these are not normal times. Voters all over America are beginning to take elections more seriously. They’re less likely to give their representatives an automatic vote of confidence. Thus, before casting their ballots on March 8, voters in Council Districts Two, Four, Six, Eight, Ten and Fourteen, may ask candidates questions like these:

  • *Do Council members have a duty to uphold the City Charter? Does the Charter require Council members to be fully informed about the civil service system? Does the Oath of Office require City officials to support that system? Are you aware that the City’s civil service rules are routinely ignored — that the Board of Civil Service Commissioners is no longer allowed to enforce rules, investigate violations or monitor employment practices? What could you do to make the civil service system work for the people of Los Angeles?
  • *Are you aware that well over half of the City’s annual budget goes to support a civil service workforce which is, to say the least, not well-managed?
  • *Are you aware that to deal with the City’s continuing budget gap, Council approved significant service reductions and employee layoffs — that it approved a plan which requires thousands of City employees to take unpaid furloughs?
  • *Do you know that, while it approved service cuts, layoffs, and unpaid furloughs, Council protected its own army of 270 exempt Council Aides?
  • *Is it true that Council members have been unwilling to talk about their exempt Aides — that they’ve refused to say how many Aides they employ, how the Aides were hired and whether any Aide is a relative or related to another City official?
  • *Is it true that Council members have refused to explain what their exempt Aides do, how their work is supervised, or how the work Aides do benefits City taxpayers? Nor would anyone say if Aides are actively involved in the current campaign?

These are serious questions. They go to the heart of City government in Los Angeles. Constituents have an absolute right to engage candidates for public office in an open discussion of such issues. Moreover, constituents have that same perfect right to judge the adequacy of candidates’ answers and explanations. And obviously, any incumbent who — despite having served on the Council — can’t/won’t discuss such issues, forfeits his right to be considered for re-election.

People get the government they tolerate. Elect a council that puts the people first!

You can contact Samuel Sperling at samuelmsperling@yahoo.com

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