Up until about two weeks ago, there were two candidates for the mayor of Los Angeles willing to talk frankly about the sorry state of our city.
After Austin Beutner dropped out of the race, that left Kevin James as the only voice with the backbone to discuss the serious challenges facing Los Angeles.
But what about Jan Perry?
On occasion, she has been openly critical of the city’s direction, especially on DWP matters. I was pleased when she challenged the shabby treatment she received at the hands of the Villaraigosa faction in charge of the redistricting committee.
So, I was anxious to hear what she had to say when she appeared at a candidate forum held at CSUN. I listened to it in entirety, courtesy of a video posted at the Studio City Patch web site.
The event was moderated by none other than Chris Essel, former candidate for the CD2, and most recently the head of the Community Redevelopment Agency.
To be clear, it was a forum and not a debate. The questions were screened in advance.
To my great disappointment, it was more like watching Kathy Lee and Hoda (watch the SNL version. It isn’t much different from the actual program).
Essel and Perry did not hesitate to pat each other on the back. At least they acknowledged their long-time friendship early in the program. To that extent, credit them for full disclosure. The content that followed wasn’t much of an improvement.
The closest Perry came to talking straight was when she described the city as being in a “fragile” state.
If that’s the strongest term she could muster, then the Council Member either does not fully understand the seriousness of the financial debacle facing us, or she is in denial.
Water mains will be replaced by the DWP on average every 200 years (the average age of existing mains is close to 100 years). Fragile?
The current general fund deficit is $200 million, even after several years of cuts, with more of the same in the years to come. Fragile?
Emergency response times increasing – fragile?
Fragile might be a more appropriate term for goods sold in a china shop. I have news for Perry – the bull has already visited LA’s china shop. There’s nothing left but to sweep up the broken pieces.
She said she would support a less generous benefit tier for new employees to help rein in retirement and health costs.
That’s the absolute minimum needed to restore financial health. The current plans will continue to absorb an increasing share of the general fund – no signal from Perry to deal with them.
She did spend about fifteen minutes (roughly one-fourth of the forum’s time) on the demise of the south central community garden, including a ten-minute video on the subject. I realize the garden was important to some, but hardly a key issue in relation to all the others facing the city.
Los Angeles is a city living on borrowed time. Perry, Garcetti and Greuel are not addressing the structural nature of the deficit. No one expects anyone to offer perfect solutions, but all of the candidates have an obligation to educate the public about the dangers of not dealing with it.
Perry will appear at Valley Vote on May 21. Let’s hope she has more to offer.