The Daunting Challenges Facing L.A.s Next Mayor

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Also my Wave Newspaper Column, Thursday, September 29 and a Focus on the Pacifica Radio (90.7 FM) Earl Ofari Hutchinson Show Saturday October 9, 9 to 11 AM

It was a foregone conclusion that a lot of big and little names in local L.A. politics would jump into the 2022 race for Los Angeles Mayor. It’s a plum job. L.A. is the nation’s second-largest city. It has a budget and an economy that surpasses that of many nations. It is the glamor capitol for entertainment, music, and now sports. It’s the gateway to the big, economically muscular China, Japan, the Pacific Rim nations, and Mexico. The names of L.A. mayors are sometimes bandied about as possible presidential timber, or as national administration cabinet officials.

However, beneath the glitter, glamor, and prestige, there are problems, lots of them, that will confront the next top City Hall occupant. The candidates all make the obligatory promise that they are the best to tackle the problems. But that’s easier said than done. Start with the problem that is the greatest eyesore, and has defied every plan, solution, program, or action to eliminate. That’s homelessness. On any given day or night, many of L.A.s streets, parks, and freeway overpasses look like Calcutta at its worst. There have been bond measures, ramped up spending, hotel, and resident vouchers, and sheltering, ordinances banning the homeless from this or that place, and police crackdowns. Yet the battered makeshift tents and encampments that dot L.A. are everywhere. 

Congresswoman Karen Bass who is a leading candidate for the mayorship minced no words when she said in announcing her run for the office that homelessness is not just a problem, but THE problem that must be a priority for anyone sitting in the mayor’s seat. It will take a mix of ramped-up approaches–strategic spending, land-use changes, housing subsidies, and the expansion of support services to dent the problem. The Homeless crisis doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It has a nefarious twin. That’s virtually unchecked, high rent or lease developments that make housing and apartment affordability in L.A. a bad joke and swells the homeless numbers. 

The new mayor must craft and push the city council to enact a solid land-use plan to rein in upscale development. That means taking checkbook politics out of the development process while ensuring the building and subsidizing of more affordable housing. 

Next is getting a handle on L.A.s rampant sprawl that has turned freeways and streets into stalled parking lots for hours on end. The answer is the continued expansion of light transit, busways, traffic signal coordination and synchronization, traffic flow monitors at major thoroughfares, and carpooling incentives. 

Then there’s the always thorny issue of police misconduct. How a mayor manages it is perennially the issue that mayor’s walk a tightrope on. The trick is how to balance the ongoing fight for LAPD reform, continue to prod the department brass and the police commission to maintain vigilance on the issue, with citizen fear of gang and criminal violence. The operative words on this remain firm direction, oversight, and rigorous discipline. 

The next L.A. mayor must understand that there are legions of L.A. voters who are fed up with the malaise, the fog of government, and the self-serving it’s about all about me careerism that has often enveloped the mayor’s office in times past. That means clamping down on special interest deal-making cronyism, in and outside City Hall, trimming a bloated city bureaucracy, and sneaky and upfront tax increases that smack of old-fashioned political pork-barreling.

Put bluntly, there must be no “for sale” sign on City Hall. A major key to ensuring the smooth, effective, resident-friendly, operation of L.A. city government is tough, hard monitoring, oversight and review, and accountability of city agencies. This starts with keeping a tight rein on the men and women’s performance who run these agencies. The mayor’s job is to make the right choices to head these agencies to make sure that happens. In the absence of that, city agencies turn into top-heavy bureaucratic leaden, inert, wasteful , crony ridden, entities.

This became a major point of contention, friction, pain, and anger with the Department of Water and Power with its colossal bureaucratic management, spending, waste, and cronyism. Mayor Garcetti continually fought with the DWP to publicly commit to a timetable for reform and arbitrary rate increases, with varying degrees of success. The next mayor will likely have the same fight given that the DWP operates as a foreign fiefdom with its board and set of rules. Still, the mayor must keep the heat on for reform and overhaul. 

Garcetti trotted to Washington to lobby for more funding for housing, and business development in grossly underserved South and East L.A. The next L.A. mayor will have to do the same, becoming a vigorous advocate for the city in DC. It will take someone who knows the levers of power and has the savvy and political connections to ensure L.A. gets the best deal it can out of Washington. 

Here’s the checklist then of challenges for the next L.A. mayor– a balanced, land use plan, protection from runaway development, traffic and transit management, tough oversight over the LAPD and city agencies, ending cronyism, mismanagement bloat, effecting transparent budget spending, and keeping L.A. in the fiscal black. 

The candidate with the ability, know-how, and political smarts to ably tackle these challenges must and should be L.A.’s next mayor.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is Bring Back the Poll Tax!—The GOP War on Voting Rights. (Middle Passage Press) He is the host of the weekly The Earl Ofari Hutchinson Show 9:00 to 11:oo AM on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network. His political affairs commentaries can be found weekly on


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