Mitch Englander and LA's predictable politics
News Analysis: Englander's early legislative moments indicate a predictable Councilman is joining an already very predictable Council.
Mitch Englander's very first remarks as a Councilman around the horseshoe on Friday were filled with themes identical to those of his campaign--themes Debbie Lopez and I identified when we interviewed Englander last August. There is family, there is a deep bond to it, and there has been some trauma in the background. As Ms. Lopez and I watched Councilman Englander introduce his family to Council and Chamber on Friday and touch again on these themes, at least one of us wondered: is this a 12-year perma-script? Sure enough, some references to tough times also appear at the bottom of his Council biography.
By sheer chance, on the way to City Hall on Friday to watch the pomp of this 44th LA City Council beginning, I was climbing up the stairs here at Chez Terrasse and hit the right button to accidentally pocket-dial...Brad Smith, erstwhile candidate for Englander's seat. Smith had the grace to call back the errant dial, not recognizing the incoming number but curious anyway. So while I had Smith on the line, I asked him...what do you think?
Smith brought up a legitimate concern--not just about Englander, but about the 44th Council in general. He says that there are few opportunities to hire people who are truly outside of politics to Council, and Council suffers for want of people with different kinds of experiences. You have in recent elections Krekorian and Koretz and Englander--all either long-standing politicians or long-standing insiders. Where are the opportunities for outsiders?
Englander, for his part, did his best to create the illusion of using his insider status to hit the ground running. Former Councilman Greig Smith sent email blasts, largely scripted by Englander anyway, out every Friday--Englander sent out the same blast Friday afternoon, under his own name, that touted no less than four actions Englander's office had already undertaken, first day on the job.
But perhaps none were quite so telling as the action Englander took candidly before some would-be constituents just before Council elections on Friday and the opening of the 44th. As it happened, Council was honoring the academic decathlon national champions from Granada Hills Charter High this day. In some candid remarks to the students before Council, Englander confessed to the group to attending rival El Camino, which the team booed. But he also made a point of expressing the importance of the victory as a victory for charter schools in general.
The debate of the fate of Granada Hills Charter No. 2, as public school, charter, or some kind of odd mileage-friendly hybrid, has been a top community dividing line for over a year now. Englander has been a top proponent of making the new school a charter. And in expressing as much, Englander is indeed toeing the district's Republican-leaning line, a line also toed by the charter-friendly Mayor's office.
But the fully realized stance on this relatively arcane schooling matter does make us wonder if Brad Smith's thumbnail analysis of Council has something very meaningful to offer voters in the next Council race--which will likely be for Janice Hahn's seat should she become a member of Congress. Are we losing something by having so many career politicians in this, the 44th Los Angeles City Council? Might Council benefit by electing a dockworker in the 15th, a community organizer, even...gasp...a businesswoman? Englander's politics, notwithstanding his fresh face and fresh family, look a little...predictable already. In a Council that is very much likewise, representing a city that is much less so.