If Council Cleans Up Act, L.A. Voters Will Come

By James Bennett Saxon

Marina del Rey resident, James Saxon
Marina del Rey resident, James Saxon

As City Council members argued about where money comes from, an alarming comment raised my eyebrows and prompted me to pass along my insights on the vanishing voter.

As a Los Angeles resident concerned with the state of politics and the effect money has, I went to Los Angeles City Council meetings and became a vocal audience member during the discussion and vote on the Ethics Commission campaign-finance reform proposals.

Sadly, council members who took advantage of existing loopholes voted down the Ethics Commission's most important proposals that would have closed them.

Some council members did not take the low road. It was affirming to see council members Cindy Miscikowski, Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel, Jack Weiss and Tom LaBonge stand up and strongly advocate stopping those who aim to buy elections.

The rest stood with the special interests that helped them into power -- and, in doing so, maintained the status quo, which is just not good enough for the people of Los Angeles.

That's why the Ethics Commission was created 10 years ago.

To stand by and let our democracy crumble for one's own self-interest is tragic, and for those who do this, I hope it becomes a career mistake.

But this can all be avoided, and Los Angeles can get out from the grip of money. Loopholes have their ramifications.

At one point, in argument to the Ethics Commission's proposals, council member Janice Hahn argued that the problem is not about too much money in campaigns. Rather, fists clenched, she wailed, "Why don't we get more people to vote in this city?"

I was shocked. Her argument and defense of the existing system is a contradiction. Doesn't she know that? To me, this is a no-brainer.

Perhaps it's not so clear to some on our council why voters don't vote.

I believe, though, that the public knows exactly what's going on here. They've been living with a disconnected system for decades.

Consider this: If you pull the lever of a toilet and more often than not nothing happens, you stop using that toilet. The toilet has a mind of its own.

So here, readers and Councilwoman Hahn, is the problem with the voters of this fine city: They don't vote because they're smart enough to see that it is a waste of time to ponder and discuss, wrangle with and evaluate whom to vote for, go to a polling place to pull a lever that's connected to nothing, while special interests pull the real levers.

The voters are waiting for our damaged system to be repaired.

Council members had an opportunity to help -- by taking the advice of the Ethics Commission.

Special interests, with their access to politicians and their ability to spend on behalf of politicians with no penalty, have disenfranchised the voter.

The voter mandate has been flushed right down the drain.

The votes shall not return until the City Council, ears stuffed up with special interest's concerns, shakes off the voices.

Yes, Councilwoman Hahn, voter turnout is a severe problem, but it is not a voter problem. It's your problem.

If politicians want the mandate of all the people, they must turn their attention to, and listen only, to the people they represent.

The solution, the only motivating incentive that will get people out of their armchairs and filling the polls, is to have fair elections -- clean, publicly financed elections.

It's working in Arizona. And it's constitutional.

Get money, especially outsider money, out of politics. Support fair campaigns. Support ethical elections. Then, council members, your votes will come.

Voting against the Ethics Commission's proposals was a contradiction and was wrong for Los Angeles.

Council members against reform: If you truly want voters, change your tune and keep your career.

We, your voting public, are watching and waiting and will no longer tolerate your failure to act.


James Bennett Saxon lives in Marina del Rey.

See the article on Los Angeles Daily News website

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