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The Top Ten Local Political Stories of 2009

Click this link for time lapse pyrocumulus progression of the political event of the year

Truly it can be said that this year was a year of political transformation in the City of Los Angeles and its immediate environs. Change occurred so frequently, and surprise results came in so assertively that when folks who have felt like there had been a boot in their face since the Bradley days all of a sudden began to win elections, they weren't even aware that they were on a considerable roll. Not used to beating City Hall, the folks who vote should take a little time to appreciate what they've accomplished over the course of the past year. And as you can't win 'em all, there were other stories too that broke your heart...

1. The Station Fire. A political event? Of course. But the top political event of the year? The Station Fire is a geopolitical failure of a scope not seen locally since the 1992 LA Riot. The health problems it is already causing may yet emerge as something comparable in scope to 9/11. The way the fire was allowed to burn, until it devastated an area more typical to a spectacular volcanic eruption than a forest fire, and especially the way public utilities were prioritized, will ultimately become the sinister Mulholland-like Owens-Valley-land-grab story of the decade.

2. Paul Krekorian breaks the Mayors' (note plural) machine at last. Eric Hacopian ate John Shallman for lunch in the highly entertaining runoff, which featured Krekorian accepting Shallman's barrage of flyers as recycle-bin fodder, MayorSam axing Essel backer Phil Jennerjahn and leaving no doubt as to the blog's influence in City politics, Shallman squandering up to $160 a vote on the Mayors' (Villaraigosa's, Riordan's) vapid chosen one, Chris Essel, and Joe Barrett streaming a jubilant Krekorian HQ on election night to a very pleased public.

3. Carmen Trutanich beats Mayors' machine candidate Jack Weiss. John Thomas's followup calls to the Times, Shallman's leave-behinds for the editorial board, and ordinarily impeccable scribe David Zahniser falling for the "friends of the Mayor" meme that Team Trutanich pushed when they saw how weakened the Mayor was in the spring all helped the novice Carmen seem the lesser of two evils in his race against longtime local pol Jack Weiss.

4. The Weekly knocks out City Council. Jill Stewart, against all odds, and with many sexist old-guard para-journalists only rooting against her, still managed to deliver a whopping cover punch from which incumbent City Councilmembers are still staggering to recover: namely, this Patrick Range McDonald article, which has had stronger legs than Lance Johnson and may be the best known political broadside of the year.

5. The ceaseless flight from City Hall. It is ordinary business, shifting staff a little after the completion of a first term. But most of the City's top managers, including the Police and Fire Chief, the Animal Services chief, the Building and Safety Chief, the Water and Power Chief, the CRA chief, and even the Mayor's Chief of Staff chief fled leaving only midlife planning dabbler Gail Goldberg still completely willing to surrender her future reputation, which is nonexistent outside of the Villaraigosa sphere.

6. Ron Kaye and friends beat Mayor's machine Proposition B. With Trujillo, Nahai, Freeman, D'Arcy, the Mayor, China, and our nearby solar neighbor the sun all in his sites, Ron Kaye's Valley Irregulars and Neighborhood Congress friends SLAPPED downtown bigtime, defeating the controversial bond measure by a hair, as voters found that "City Hall Boondoggle" was a phrase that resonated slightly better with them than "our City's solar future depends on it." Kaye confessed to "never feeling better about things" even in the darkest days of the struggle, and his movement even made their way down to the south lawn of City Hall one memorable day last spring---and they didn't exactly leave their pitchforks behind. The loss stunned the Mayor's office and is widely rumored to have lead to Nahai's eventual ouster. It was certainly the crowning coup to...

7. Antonio Villaraigosa, stunned by barely eluding a runoff, learns he's too weak politically to run for governor. The blog street-hassle simply threw up its cyber-hands and said "Mission Accomplished."

8. The LA Times comes clean on its circ numbers. Local politicians have long been aware of the Times ceaselessly diminishing political influence, but advertisers began to complain audibly about the prospect of padded numbers. When the fishwrap lost a key supermarket insert, it had to come clean at last, and coming clean wasn't pretty: 723,181 in March 2009. It was at 900,000 in 2004.

9. UTLA keeps LAUSD reasonably intact, and vice versa. Miracle, but true. This was the year it was all supposed to end. It only ended up re-invigorating AJ Duffy, and Supe Cortines ended up more embattled than ever.

10. SB 1818 essentially gutted. And while the Times went running after the weirdly litigious Jane Usher for her opinion on the judge's ruling, the Downtown News's Anna Scott located people who know things, not only about land use but about campaign finance too.

So many others! Walter Moore running tv spots! Koretz defeats Vahedi! The politicization of a 32-year-old rape case! Sinkholes and water mains! And you knew you weren't going to get through any LA top ten for 2009 without this classic:

And you were right. If 2009 was a transformational year in LA politics, 2010 will be the year to finish the job. Finish it!