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Jan 2022 In AD54; CoLA Needs a Good Lawyer

Sara Roos: We seem hesitant to challenge insurrection on the grounds of incivility; we seem unwilling to challenge monopolistic and plutocratic control in the shadow of weak voices.
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A homeless encampment in Los Angeles' Financial District (Photo: Laurie Avocado)

There’s been no real dearth of real news, but some of it has been so big it is hard to get a sighting. Even while quotidian stuff is kinda the same: zoom, canceled meetings, opacity and games.

The big stuff has to do with a very national preoccupation: comportment, zeitgeist, control. LACDP (County central Democratic Committee) has been struggling to conduct remote meetings amongst a new set of delegates who are outspoken about changing business-as-usual. Robert’s Rules of Order have been a long-standing set of guidelines for meeting in public, which includes rules governing in-person objections and interactions, interruptions and expressions of dissent.

But a new, remote platform of zoom-order has upended expectations. Where once in-person interactions were limited by physical civility, now instead interactions are defined by an idea of exchange. Where formerly it was only proverbial sticks and stones – never words – that would hurt, suddenly with in-person interaction gone, words have accrued a deeper prerogative.

All of politics can be understood as a struggle for control between established and a revised order. But as fellow AD54, some-time LACDP delegate and former CoLA Controller, Rick Tuttle, points out in the Culver City Democratic Club Dec20 newsletter, issues of great social progress not infrequently, and perhaps even inevitably involve uncivil exchange. Categorically muting free voice amounts to silencing expectation of any such punctuated progress. Mr. Tuttle calls this “a threat to democracy inside our Democratic Party”.

We seem hesitant to challenge insurrection on the grounds of incivility; we seem unwilling to challenge monopolistic and plutocratic control in the shadow of weak voices.

These rules of silence have been adopted within LACDP and CDP (State Democratic Party); they now govern its constituent Democratic Clubs. This technological smoke screen for silencing dissent is evident up and down the political strata, and social ones as well. We seem hesitant to challenge insurrection on the grounds of incivility; we seem unwilling to challenge monopolistic and plutocratic control in the shadow of weak voices. We are without the means (or perhaps will?) to hear fellow constituents sequestered in technological – or metaphorical – waiting-rooms.

These are big matters afoot within the little monthly LACDP meetings. Mr. Tuttle’s objections have fallen on deaf ears, though he promises to renew them anon. With the new rules in force there is little happening at meetings except ratification of an agenda set by establishment. Even as our fellow Democrats retain supermajority control, their corruption is delineated elsewhere one indictment at a time. It is important that we think carefully about future elections in order that we can articulate our best interests vociferously and vote accordingly. We need to push back against sanctioned Party-line conformity and coronation. So please consider my reasoning for City Attorney as follows:

There are seven (7!) candidates for LA City Attorney (CA). The TL;DR is:

Hydee Feldstein-Soto is a riveting candidate: We should be so lucky as to acquire such competence on our side, the side of we the people.

At the 2021 half-year, five (5) of the seven candidates had raised funds in the 6-figure range (Rick Chavez Zbur retrained his sights on the State Assembly last March). Donations are filed again at the close of this year with the City of LA’s Ethics Commission but won’t become public until after January.

The remaining two are less noteworthy: Sherri Onica Cole is a serial candidate for Superior Court Judge, with a confusing history of naming herself amidst questionable work qualifications; she was fired by the LA CA in 2018. Richard Y(iseop) Kim has no overt internet presence beyond a donations page and a linkedin suggesting he teaches abroad on a leave of absence from the CA’s office.

Between even sporadic (if not commonplace) LAPD malfeasance and citywide shredding of the social fabric, there is no question that the City needs a good attorney. We need them to align the City’s legal actions with the public’s moral priorities, to advise our workers on behalf of real people well, and to safeguard the public purse. Competence and experience matters.

Of the top-three earners (all the males, and in order: Faisal Gill, Teddy Kapur, Kevin James), two first formed their political life as Republicans. GOP-forsaken, NSA-abused, politically-prodigal sonFaisal Gillfound support in Bernie Sanders’ Vermont, where fiscal conservatism meets social libertarianism. Meanwhile one-time conservative talk radio host, Kevin James, served as political counterbalance in Democratic Mayor Garcetti’s scandal-ridden LA Public Works Board (he was himself not implicated in wrong-doing).

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Whether their transformation is driven by morals or simple opportunism, these candidates are a palimpsest of their former political alignment. James’ promoters recently argued his LGBTQ+ bonafides so aggressively as to be reminiscent of the fervor with which their nominee, the entertainment lawyer turned entertainer, James, himself once championed rightwing causes – including charter schools and education reform, climate-change denial, “liberal-media” and BigGobmint bashing. Check out his published diatribes and the backend skirmish on his Wikipedia talk tab. His fanboys there furiously sanitize a notorious national TV appearance from 2008 with Chris Matthews. But we’re watching in real-time a “low rent” conservative talk radio host expiate such past sins filling potholes for a Democratic administration.

It’s easy to mistake the enemy of mine enemy as a friend. But reality is multifaceted. Beware the prodigal Republican. Because the appeal of epiphany and transformation can also belie poor initial judgement. And that’s a bad formula for good political leadership.

Teddy Kapur is a bankruptcy lawyer and some-time treasurer for the State Democratic Party by “day”; by “night” he oversees a mentoring and advocacy NFP addressing homelessness through the creation of community relationships. A financial functionary, he has special knowledge of campaigns and their filings. And his own campaign monies (magnifiable pdf is here for figure 1 which also follows below) and contributors (magnifiable pdf is here and here for table 1-wide (desktops), or here for table 1-long (mobile), also below) reflect that familiarity and predilection for “relationship building”.

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Fig. 1 Relative distribution of LA City Attorney campaign funds just before Jan 2021, contrasting loans (tan), individual contributions (dark blues, incl (<$99) “unitemized”) and non-individual (incl small committee & PAC) contributions (lighter blues).

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Table 1 Comparison of loan monies, monetary and non-monetary contributions to each of the LA City Attorney candidates. Monetary contributions from PACs and small contributor committees (SCC) are broken down by type. Contributions only from individuals simultaneously supporting two candidates (“to double candidates”; on the bottom) are specifically enumerated. (See full table here)

See full Table 1 here.

Kapur’s support is not, primarily, from individual high-rollers as seen in the heavy right-tail distribution, for example, of Gill’s donations (magnifiable pdf is here for figure 2-wide (desktops), here for figure 2-long (mobile); institutional giving is above in table 1, figure 2 follows below). Nor is there strong grass-roots support as a left-tailed distribution would indicate – none of the candidates has disproportionate small donors. But this corporate restructuring expert leverages a largish-loan (three times that of Feldstein Soto, the next smaller and less than a quarter that of Gill, the candidate with the massive high-end support), and compatriots seemingly familiar with the game of campaigning. And there are a lot of those, almost half-again as many as for the populist Latina, Marina Torres, donating above minimum in the range between $101-$250. The strong relationships belie a strategic plan, Kapur’s website is boilerplate, low on concrete ideas or stated positions (cf the detail of James’ or Gill’s priorities).

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Fig. 2 Distribution of unique donors’ total contribution to each LA City Attorney candidate, December, 2021

The two serious candidates who are women are also both Latina, and they also each report the least cash-on-hand. Marina Torres has non-individual and Committee contributions (light blue in fig 1) rivaling those of former LA Public Works commissioner James. His early support follows from unions, PACs and the entertainment industry; hers from the legal and FIRE (Finance-Insurance-Real estate)/Construction sector. Like Kapur, her website is full of dismay for the status quo, and light on practicalities of remediation. Her business- and developer-friendly support is very conservative.

Hydee Feldstein Soto spans both Latin and Jewish identities. My own interest centers on competence. In the search for a “good lawyer” I think it makes sense to elect a skilled counselor, rather than ethnic icon or political apprentice. I have watched Ms Feldstein Soto for many years now, study, learn and ingest a world of complicated legal maneuverings around housing, housing policy, development and power politics. Her engagement is at the level of a scholar who has understood the minutiae. She has her hands around the whole because she has mastered the details. I don’t know what relationships she forms, she has moved in biglaw, not political, circles. But I have seen her move a room of hundreds not preordained to hear her out, right into her very own quarter; seen her transform a crowd of skeptics into boosters. She walks her audience along in understanding, transferring all the careful studying she has done herself, to her listener’s consciousness, where their support flows along for the ride.

Our City deserves a strong advocate when our charter is challenged by state-level maneuverings. We need to conform with centrally articulated moral principles that work in our community. It is the job of our City Attorney to offer advice and guidance in moral and legal conformation with the State. Competence I can verify, rather than anointment from the Party, is the prerequisite most meaningful to me.

Please help elect ourselves a good City Attorney for Los Angeles on June 7, 2022: vote for
Hydee Feldstein Soto

Other matters in Party politics include concern about Covid scuttling the in-person State convention that had been scheduled for downtown LA this March, 2022.

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I have been appointed to the LACDP Legislation Action committee. If there is pending legislation, whether City, State, County or Federal, that you believe LACDP attention could influence, please don’t hesitate to be in touch. As with this and any other Party-level matter, I am very eager to hear from you the better that I might represent you.

Yours,

Sara Roos
Redqueeninla