COLUMN: Do politicians in Los Angeles make the grade?

In elementary and middle school, report cards were always effective in influencing student progression. Even then, however, complaints arose arguing that report cards weren’t accurate measures of determining development. But in a greater sense, that’s untrue. Report cards allow assessment of character highs and lows, specific areas for improvement and overall achievement. That’s why creating a report card for elected Los Angeles city officials is such a fitting idea. Recently, the Los Angeles Times graded the current mayor, city controller, city attorneys and council president, marking all with an overall average grade of C. Let’s take a closer look at this metric scale.

It seem’s like the L.A. Times’ overarching sentiment for Mayor Eric Garcetti hinges on the current mayor employing lots of talk and little action. As many politicians begin their campaign trail with promises for grandiose policies, Garcetti was no different in 2013 when he first ran and surely won’t be in 2017. I can’t blame him for setting his eyes on large policy changes, but I can blame him for failing to effectively execute these promises. And while I am understanding of the length of time necessary to make large changes, it’s lately becoming increasingly more evident that policy leaders are more interested in putting on the heroic facade and less interested in fixing problems. So while the L.A. Times endorsed Garcetti in 2013, they have now — instead of fully denouncing support for him — given him a C on his overall performance upon these five categories: a C- in leadership, C in effectiveness, B+ in vision, C+ in transparency and a D in political courage. Even I was shocked after I saw these scores.

Meanwhile, Garcetti is about halfway through his term as mayor and has been actively fundraising for his re-election campaign since March. Here’s what I’m seeing and can wholeheartedly agree with the Times for: There is a lack of comprehensive plans for education reform, job creation, homelessness and domestic abuse. But that’s not all of it. It begins here in South Central. Garcetti must take efficient measures to combat issues local to USC’s neighborhood.

In The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli recommends that those who lead must appoint ministers who don’t already hold power. Perhaps Garcetti failed to realize that using political cronies is a mistake, especially when he promised to hire a deputy mayor of the economic and workforce development department. I’m cautiously optimistic in that I believe Garcetti has room for change in the less than two years left in his term, but the key word in this is “cautious.” I’m looking forward to educational reform which promotes funding for programs against gang violence resistance, charter schools and a lofty goal toward combatting low graduation rates. It’s possible for Garcetti to treat plans especially in the economic workforce for the Angelenos in South Central as he said he would during his campaign. Since Garcetti’s backdoor incident in which he snuck out the back door of his home when black rights’ protesters asked for answers, he has been coined as the figure who speaks only when it benefits him politically. The mayoral race is non-partisan, but never have I seen Garcetti work outside of his party. The Times editorial board said, “to be a leader, he has to be willing to make hard, unpopular decisions for the greater good of the city.” At best, Garcetti deserves a C+ for his term as mayor.

The Times’ offered Herb Wesson’s placement as council president average at best, noting that his work merely serves as a placeholder with a lack of willingness to discuss major issues at council meetings such as minimum wage increases and cuts in retirement benefits for city workers. Wesson’s portrayal suggests he plays ball as the captain of court with little room for negotiation. Quite clearly, Garcetti and Wesson are less fond of spending the city budget on restructuring of the streets — specifically the potholes and busted sidewalks. City planning that promotes integration, rather than political motivations, should be considered on his behalf and more issues need to be put on the table. City Attorney Mike Feuer received the best grade by far with a B+. According to the Times’, Feuer’s focus on the neighborhood prosecutor program where he helped pave the way for lower instances of neighborhood crime disputes and greater resolutions among low-level crimes.

Los Angeles politicians —step your game up.

Sarah Dhanaphatana is a junior majoring in political science.  She is also deputy features editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Dhanapolitics,” runs Fridays.