Wanted: A mayor who sees the big picture

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Though local politicos and newsrooms have been glued to the upcoming mayoral election for months now, the rest of Los Angeles is only just starting to tune in. And if readers are not yet watching, a pair of city columnists are sure trying hard to adjust the proverbial rabbit ears so they start to. So what kind of show are we walking in on? City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Council members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry are the better known candidates striving to define themselves from one another after years of similar voting records at City Hall. Much of their focus has been spent on endorsements and fundraising. Meanwhile entertainment lawyer Kevin James and tech exec Emanuel Pleitez will be running on the “kick the bums out” mantra.
Los Angeles Magazine editor Mary Melton directed her editorial in this month’s edition at those three city insiders. “What we need is vision,” she writes, “Someone who can harness the energy of the Occupy generation yet also inspire their grandparents to invest in the city.” Interesting image. She continues about the front runners:

I don’t doubt their passion for the city, but all three have been criticized for doing a less-than-exemplary job of distinguishing their agendas. It is the council, of course, that has to approve any appointments and proposals made by the mayor. I hope their campaigns don’t reflect a council-person’s view of the office’s limitations. Forgive the cliché, but this is a city of dreamers. Our next mayor needs to think big. Those who want the seat have got just two more months to knock us out. We’re all ears.

If Melton had her ears perked at the most recent mayoral debate – a feisty affair last week in the San Fernando Valley, she was probably underwhelmed. The candidates spent much of the time jabbing over campaign contributions. The question is whether enough pushing by political observers and op-ed writers can lift the debates from polite jabs to big picture ideas.

On this issue of vision, Steve Lopez agrees. In his Jan. 20 column, he writes:

It’s a tough job. We need a mayor who can figure out how to fill potholes without a bond measure, but we also need a visionary schemer who marshals the city’s great minds and institutions to make Los Angeles a Pacific Rim trend-setter in job development, transportation, healthcare, land use and clean energy.

We need someone who can manage the budget, restore a collective sense of civic pride and know how to make a difference in both Koreatown and El Sereno, but also someone who knows when to pat City Council members on the back and when to kick them in the pants.

In other words, we want a little of [Richard] Riordan’s audacity, but with more transparency; a little of [James] Hahn’s focus but with a more rapid pulse; and a little of [Anotnio] Villaraigosa’s hustle but with fewer photo-ops and junkets. (More here.)

What do you want to hear from the mayoral candidates?