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Undercover at The Great Debate

Candidates Moore, Jennerjahn, Dogg, Rubin and Hernandez before the panel.

You can watch all two hours here. My notes are below.

across the street...

I arrive the undisclosed location in Sunland Tujunga at which the event billing itself as "The Great Debate" is taking place. That's me in the reflection on the right---the undisclosed location is in the reflection on the left, and if you look really hard, you can see an undisclosed Joe Barrett, undisclosed producer of this undisclosed debate.

Up the street, moments ago...

I find Sunland Tujunga very congenial this time of year. Their poppies are out before ours. I've carefully cropped any street signs out of the frame, but these poppies are growing on the very same street on which The Great Debate is taking place.

David Hernandez.

Outside the hall, Hernandez, supposing I am a tourist, poses for a photo for me.

Inside the hall, last candidate to arrive is Phil Jennerjahn.

Cover is blown early on as I take off my shades.


Candidates present are Walter Moore, Phil Jennerjahn, Zuma Dogg, Craig X. Rubin, and David Hernandez. Panelists are street-hassle's Debbie Lopez and LA Weekly's Jill Stewart. The moderator is Ron Kaye, today looking a lot like Gwen Ifill. Notes follow.

In opening statements, Zuma Dogg tells his story of how he came to City Hall three years ago and why he was called to action. He sees City Hall a “racketeering factory.” Mentions W. Edwards Deming as playing an inspirational role to him. Says Dr. Deming’s fourteen points message is getting out, and it’s helpful to address the nearly immeasurable waste in the City.

David Hernandez says that all the candidates are bringing something to the table and should be heard. Sixty years old, born in Lincoln Heights, he moved to San Fernando Valley at an early age and grew up in NoHo. He had Vietnam, Mediterranean, and NATO assignments in military. Says he knows what LA used to be like, and it’s a good point of reference. Learned how to water ski at Hansen Dam. Problems are not going to end on March 3.

Jennerjahn says he wants the job, says he is running for Mayor because he doesn’t share Villaraigosa’s vision. Wants to control borders.

Moore says Mayor gives out “welfare for the rich.” Scolds a “young lady” in the audience when a cellphone shuts down.

Rubin introduces Tera his wife and mentions his seven kids. Looking for desalinization, announces he’s against B. Most important thing for the City is jobs. Wants to protect medical marijuana clubs.

First question is about education, Zuma calls LAUSD a "dropout factory," calls it the most important issue facing the City.

Question comes in regarding billboards. Walter discloses his contributions. A little back and forth with Walter and Zuma over contributions. Walter says he’s been involved with six cases involving billboards. Says Ron Kaye has demonized him. Audience was unaware that Ron Kaye was running for office.

Three challengers speak Spanish, some limited but all without falling back on rote phrases, Hernandez, Jennerjahn and Rubin all do well, Dogg also contributes a little. Walter Moore says a few words in French.

The candidates are bewildered by the positive print coverage for the Mayor. Zuma says he’s glad that a little coverage has broken through.

Everyone loves the people here. Walter wants to preserve a low-rise, low-density lifestyle. Jennerjahn loves the diversity of the cuisine.


Creating affordable housing: Hernandez says the Mayor’s plan pencils out to two million dollars a unit. Phil says the market will work, says it’s not government’s role. Says the premise of the question is wrong. Walter too, and adds “I’m a NIMBY and I’m proud” and later says the Mayor’s plan doesn’t exist. Affordable housing is the biggest racket in the City. Rubin, the issue is that more jobs are needed.

Public safety: Rubin wants to fire Bratton for endorsing Villaraigosa. Hernandez says kidnapping is up, says the Mayor has some explaining for do. Walter says that crimes are down everywhere and it’s like stepping on an escalator and taking credit for the movement. Jennerjahn adds that three strikes has done more for lowering violent crime than anything Villaraigosa has done. Zuma says the statistics are manipulated.

Neighborhood councils. Hernandez says they’re not going away, and the people there have a pulse on their community and they know what’s going on. Walter says we need to enforce the law. Jennerjahn says he wants business not to be interfered with. Zuma says he would like to solicit feedback through Neighborhood Councils, calls himself “the public feedback machine.”

Debate: Walter says the Mayor gave up 700 grand in matching funds so he wouldn’t have to debate me. Zuma says he thinks exposure is good but should be better. Antonio’s not afraid to debate, Jennerjahn says, “he’s not smart, but he’s crafty.” Hernandez points to the Villaraigosa brochure, filled with misrepresentations and props, and says Villaraigosa wouldn’t add legitimacy to the debate. Rubin calls the Mayor a liar, a cheater and a thief.

Noise pollution: Hernandez says let’s take care of our own. Zuma says there are bigger problems. Phil reminds people how much he likes it here. Rubin says there isn’t time or resources, it isn’t something he’s going to jump on right away. Walter says it’s part of urbanity, says he’s going to try to enforce “nuisance laws.”

Illegal immigration: Hernandez feels it’s been a case of selective enforcement. Rubin wants to get rid of the special gang program fundings. Zuma says regardless of any enforcement, Latinos are here to stay. Jennerjahn wants to arrest and deport, because that’s what the law says to do. Walter says the City of LA is illegally aiding and abetting illegal immigration. Says his first act as Mayor would be to revoke Special Order 40.

Closing statements, Rubin says it’s jobs, jobs, jobs and law and order. Walter says don’t vote for Villaraigosa, and to just show up at the polls. Jennerjahn says we don’t need a lawyer, we need a leader, and that he has a history of leadership. Hernandez talks about family and gives a little curriculum vitae, involved with many civic organizations. Zuma says he feels blessed and he’s never been happier.

The debate ends to an enthusiastic chorus of applause.

Probably the best soundbite of the debate is Hernandez’s pointing out the props on the Villaraigosa brochure. Some of Moore's brazen statements also fetch attention.

Higby did a great job with the time cards.