Los Angeles Gets It Half Right In Mayoral Race
So, the good news first: Democratic Rep. Karen Bass will advance to the November runoff election for Los Angeles mayor against nouveau Democrat Rick Caruso.
The less thrilling news is that billionaire mall developer Caruso outperformed polls that showed Bass comfortably ahead. A recent one from just a few days ago had Bass up 38 percent to Caruso’s 32. Today, with more than one-third of the expected votes counted, Caruso leads Bass 42 percent to 37. That would prove a decisive victory in November.
This reminds me of former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, a Black Democrat who lost the 1982 governor’s election despite seemingly leading in the polls. There’s debate over whether the Bradley Effect even exists, but this election certainly has ideal conditions for it. Seemingly liberal white voters might resist admitting to pollsters that they’ve fallen for Caruso’s "law and order/homeless go bye-bye” rhetoric.
Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin suggested that Democrats had fallen asleep on the crime issue ravaging our cities.
She tweeted: "been arguing for months (a year?) Biden admin should be making crime a top priority ... maybe SF and LA will wake them up."
\u201cbeen arguing for months (a year?) Biden admin should be making crime a top priority... maybe SF and LA will wake them up\u201d— Jennifer 'I stand with Ukraine' Rubin \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6 (@Jennifer 'I stand with Ukraine' Rubin \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6) 1654689581
During the March mayoral debate, Caruso claimed, “Right now we have some of the worst crime we’ve had in the history of Los Angeles.” Predictably for a former Republican, his statement wasn’t entirely true. Violent crime in Los Angeles is nowhere near its 1990s peak. However, according to Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore, robberies involving firearms were up 57 percent from 2020 and 60 percent from 2019.
Through the middle of March, property crime was up more than 5% over last year, with car thefts again a major concern. Compared to this point in 2020, vehicle thefts are up nearly 44%.
This probably explains why Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t wear her good jewelry when walking down the streets of Rodeo Drive. She’s a ridiculous person, but she does reflect a certain LA person (i.e., an asshole).
We don’t mean to dismiss the crime issue, but it’s not as if Bass ran on a pro-crime platform. She also has more relevant credentials than building malls. In 1990, she founded the Community Coalition, a group of Black and Latino community organizers, that worked to prevent crime through addressing the root causes, including poverty, substance abuse, and the lack of access to supportive services.
Bass has a detailed, comprehensive plan for crime prevention if she’s elected mayor, and as she explains on her campaign site, "We’ve tried arresting our way out of the problem before – it doesn’t work."
People who are able to put food on the table, send their kids to good schools, and pay their rent are less likely to commit crimes. That’s why Bass will double down on crime prevention, which saves lives and property before they are taken – and saves taxpayer dollars. She would invest in social services and job programs that will help quash economic inequality, keep at-risk youth off the streets, and give outreach workers the support needed to get people experiencing mental health and behavioral crises back on their feet.
But Caruso is gonna sweep the homeless right out of rich people’s hair. He’s also “tough on crime,” appealing to the punitive urges of many Los Angeles voters. Bloomberg reports that “a wave of brazen crimes targeting the wealthy” has driven "well-heeled Angelenos to seek specialized services: panic rooms, armored luxury cars, and firms that scrub websites of personal information that robbers could use.”
Caruso would funnel more money to the police, who are under no obligation to stop or solve crimes. He’d also “crack down on property crime” by forcing the city attorney to prosecute misdemeanors.
They’re still counting the votes, but Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León was running a distant third and progressive activist Gina Viola is dead last. They should immediately throw their support behind Bass, who actually has constructive solutions for the city’s problems.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."