Per­son­al­i­ties set Democrats apart

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - CATH­LEEN DECKER cath­leen. decker @ latimes. com

SACRA­MENTO — On a re­cent day filled with earnest dis­cus­sions about may­oral pol­icy mat­ters, three politi­cians sketched out ap­peals that could be­come very fa­mil­iar in fu­ture Cal­i­for­nia elec­tions.

Eric Garcetti, the Los An­ge­les mayor, geeked out about the gov­ern­ing po­ten­tial of his smart­phone. His pre­de­ces­sor, An­to­nio Vil­laraigosa, pas­sion­ately de­fined ed­u­ca­tion as the next civil rights move­ment. Gavin New­som, the for­mer San Fran­cisco mayor and cur­rent lieu­tenant gover­nor, warned that gov­ern­ment is verg­ing on ex­tinc­tion.

Most ma­jor po­lit­i­cal fig­ures in Cal­i­for­nia in­habit the same ide­o­log­i­cal turf— they are more or less mod­er­ate to lib­eral Democrats, with pol­icy dis­tinc­tions a rar­ity. So it is per­son­al­ity and ap­proach that can be the most com­pelling dis­tinc­tions when their am­bi­tions col­lide.

All three men, who de­liv­ered re­marks Sun­day at the U. S. Con­fer­ence of May­ors’ an­nual meet­ing, are look­ing at 2018. The gover­nor’s of­fice will be open and, if Dianne Fe­in­stein de­cides against seek­ing a new term, a U. S. Se­nate seat would also be avail­able.

New­som has al­ready be­gun rais­ing money to run for gover­nor. Vil­laraigosa also sees a gover­nor when he looks in the mir­ror. Garcetti has been rais­ing money for his re­elec­tion but is widely seen as cov­et­ing higher of­fice af­ter that.

Their can­di­da­cies would en­com­pass more than the nar­row top­ics they ad­dressed. Still, what they said spoke to the cam­paigns that may be.

Politi­cians usu­ally tele­graph a deep de­sire to be adored. Not so for Garcetti, who two years into his term comes across as less back­slap­ping than cere­bral. In his yen for col­lect­ing and cu­rat­ing data to guide city de­ci­sions, he seems to be ap­ing the hip tech peo­ple he’s been try­ing to lure to Los An­ge­les. Some­times it’s just a bit cocky.

“I know data can be scary. Who’s a techno­phobe out there? Who’s a Lud­dite?” Garcetti asked his fel­low may­ors, who were dis­in­clined to play along. See­ing al­most no hands rise, he added, “Those of you who are scared about data — it can be over­whelm­ing.”

Garcetti’s ar­gu­ment is that by mon­i­tor­ing city per­for­mance via smart­phones, may­ors can ride un­der­lings for the im­prove­ments they want made. It’s less an ef­fort to lead by in­spi­ra­tion than to hit nu­mer­i­cal tar­gets.

Garcetti said he wants to be an up­dated ver­sion of for­mer New York Mayor Ed Koch, who used to ask vot­ers: How am I do­ing?

“I … want to wake up and ask my smart­phone: ‘ How am I do­ing?’” Garcetti said.

He can tell you which of the com­po­nents of Fire Depart­ment re­sponse time — the 911 op­er­a­tor’s end, the turnout time and the travel time — are av­er­ag­ing bet­ter or worse than the goal. He can tell how long the av­er­age An­ge­leno waits for a ser­vice call from the DWP.

“Peo­ple de­mand to­day a tech- f lu­ent gov­ern­ment, and peo­ple de­mand to­day tech- f lu­ent may­ors,” he said, adding that “re­lent­less in­no­va­tion should be the hall­mark of who we are.”

If Garcetti can come off as a lit­tle blood­less, Vil­laraigosa is any­thing but — em­phatic, in­sis­tent, emo­tion­ally mak­ing the ar­gu­ment he made as mayor: Short­chang­ing kids ed­u­ca­tion­ally is a vi­o­la­tion of their civil rights. It is an ar­gu­ment that has made him a tar­get of the teach­ers unions, which riles him.

“I worked for the teach­ers and other unions as well,” he said. “I be­lieve in col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing. I am not in any way anti- union.”

What he is fiercely against are the rules that have gov­erned schools for decades, chief among them the pro­tec­tion of se­nior­ity.

“I tell peo­ple I left with a 58% ap­proval rat­ing. Imag­ine if I had come back to the peo­ple of L. A. and said, ‘ Vote for me — I’ve been here the long­est.’ ” Bet­ter, he said, to say: “Vote for me be­cause I’ve done some­thing.”

Vil­laraigosa drew a di­rect line be­tween the un­rest in Amer­i­can cities and per­sis­tent fail­ings in the na­tion’s schools.

“If we’re tired of ri­ot­ing in our com­mu­ni­ties, if we’re tired of job­less­ness, if we’re tired of the prison in­dus­trial com­plex where so many of the finest young peo­ple in the poor­est com­mu­ni­ties end up be­hind bars, then we’ve got to ed­u­cate them, we’ve got to fight for them, we’ve got to stand up for the no­tion that their civil rights mat­ter,” he said. “That’s what a great and good Amer­ica is all about.”

Vil­laraigosa im­plored Democrats to “have the courage to stand up” to union power.

“We can do this on a path I call the rad­i­cal cen­ter,” Vil­laraigosa said. “It’s not left or right, it’s not ide­o­log­i­cal,” he said. “It’s ‘ Let’s fix what’s bro­ken.’ ”

New­som struck the most apoc­a­lyp­tic note, all but dis­miss­ing the fu­ture of gov­ern­ment as it cur­rently ex­ists. His ar­gu­ment was that gov­er­ment ur­gently needs to mimic how In­ter­net com­pa­nies are sup­ply­ing ev­ery­thing from lodg­ings to trans­porta­tion to mu­sic: per­son­al­ized and f lex­i­ble.

“We are at this prover­bial hinge point, go­ing from some­thing old to some­thing new,” he said.

“The In­ter­net, by def­i­ni­tion, has changed the way we live, the way we work, the way we play. It has changed ev­ery­thing.”

So gov­ern­ment reg­u­lates taxis and is sur­prised when ride- shar­ing firms like Uber and Lyft move into the mar­ket. Gov­ern­ment reg­u­lates ho­tels and is shocked when home- shar­ing takes over.

“Our job as lead­ers, it seems, is not com­mand and con­trol but cli­mate con­trol, cre­at­ing con­di­tions,” he said. “Cre­ate the con­di­tions where peo­ple can do more things to­gether, be more par­tic­i­pa­tory.”

New­som’s ca­chet is provoca­tive po­si­tion­ing. He was ahead of the pack when he backed gay mar­riage a decade ago. He’s of­ten un­der­es­ti­mated when it comes to in­tel­lect. But it was on dis­play in San Fran­cisco, along with a down­side: scant de­tail about how the change he’s posit­ing should be pulled off.

Still, New­som’s pitch was a re­minder of the strong gen­er­a­tional thread at work in Cal­i­for­nia’s pol­i­tics.

While Vil­laraigosa, 62, is lean­ing back to the civil rights era for his metaphors, New­som and Garcetti, 47 and 44 re­spec­tively, use as their base of com­par­i­son the en­tre­pre­neur­ial suc­cesses of the new econ­omy.

“It’s about di­a­logue, a two- way con­ver­sa­tion,” New­som in­sisted. “Peo­ple want to en­gage.

“Ev­ery­thing we de­sign, from a gov­er­nance per­spec­tive, needs to be de­signed for par­tic­i­pa­tion.... It’s not just a tech prob­lem. It’s a cul­tural prob­lem. It’s a mind­set.”

Damian Do­var­ganes As­so­ci­ated Press


. L. A. MAYOR Eric Garcetti wants to bet­ter in­cor­po­rate tech­nol­ogy into city gov­ern­ment so per­for­mance can be mon­i­tored ef­fec­tively. He takes a cere­bral, data- cen­tered ap­proach rather than lead­ing by in­spi­ra­tion.

Rich Pe­dron­celli AP

EX- MAYOR An­to­nio Vil­laraigosa says vote for who’s done the most, not been around long­est.

I rfan Khan L. A. Times

LT. GOV. Gavin New­som says the gov­ern­ment should adapt and be per­son­al­ized and f lex­i­ble.

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