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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

As you may have heard, Los Angeles City Hall has a huge hole in the budget.

And while the budget hole is pretty big right now, after July 1 the deficit becomes really huge and threatening.

So you might find it surprising that there’s a city election on March 8 – and you haven’t been hearing a lot of clamoring to throw the bums out.

That’s because Los Angeles doesn’t work that way.

Politics here is a game practiced mostly by an elite tier of insiders who know the players and who might get involved personally by writing a check or going to a meeting.

There’s also a small class of dissidents who more or less always think things are messed up. They might get involved with their local neighborhood council, or post screeds on a blog.

A few even run for office, as what the media typically call a fringe candidate.

Then there is the big fat middle. Where most Angelenos can be found.

They only vote, if at all, when the mayor’s on the ballot. And this year, the citywide office holders aren’t running.

But six of the 15 members of the City Council are, and they’re the real architects of the budget problem.

And guess what. Most of them are going to be reelected. There’s a good chance that all of them will win.

The only office that’s sure to change is the one representing the west end of the San Fernando Valley. There, Greig Smith is giving up his seat to teach at USC.

He’s handing the job to his chief of staff, a City Hall insider named Mitch Englander. There are rivals for the seat on the ballot, but, you know. It’s LA.

Englander has the money from City Hall interests and the connections that count. He also has the newspaper endorsements. If he doesn’t win, it will be a huge upset.

Council incumbents Paul Krekorian, Tony Cardenas, and Herb Wesson also have opponents who range in nature from token to well-meaning. Not the stuff of a revolt in the making.

Things are more interesting on the Eastside, where incumbent Jose Huizar is under pressure from a former friend, a businessman and TV personality named Rudy Martinez.

But they have chosen to fight the race so far mostly on side issues like police badges and who has which tarnish on his personal resume.

There’s a little more issues talk in the districts where Bernard Parks is being targeted by union money, and where Tom Labonge is under fire from community activists.

But all of the challengers, and the incumbents too, know that the last time a sitting council member lost was back in 2003.

Then, a slick politician named Antonio Villaraigosa returned from Sacramento to shove aside the guy in his way. It wasn’t exactly an uprising of angry voters.

Even this year – with all the budget deficits, layoffs and closed libraries -- you don’t hear much debate about how the city got in this fix. Or who’s to blame.

Issues like the NFL stadium for downtown, or how to create jobs? Even less debate.

If you have a thought you can go to KCRW.com/laobserved to leave a comment. Next week I’ll talk about some other issues on the upcoming ballot.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.

 

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