Pollsters are fond of asking the question if a state or locality is headed in the right direction as an election approaches.
Given the major issues facing voters in Los Angeles, I decided to frame that question differently when I recently participated on the political panel at the annual Valley Industry and Commerce Association’s Business Forecast Conference.
I asked the fifty or so attendees who chose our panel, given the major concerns over homelessness and crime, the scandals involving city council members and the ideological shift to the left of city government, how many in the audience considered moving their home and/or business out of Los Angeles. About two-thirds of the hands went up.
While that is a select group responding to the question, and admittedly a small sample, the result is telling.
The idea that the L.A. City Council could move further to the left if more progressives are victorious on Election Day (Election Month?), will affect the agenda of whichever mayoral candidate is successful.
If Rick Caruso is the new mayor faced with an ultra-progressive city council, will his role be like that of a soccer goalie batting away dramatic policy shots from becoming law? Karen Bass may play a similar role to a lesser degree as she tries to work out some compromises with erstwhile colleagues.
Already one self-declared democratic socialist has captured a seat on the council during the primary election. Another is running hard to join her and other progressives, whether accepting the democratic socialist label or not, are either sitting on the council or eager to take their place after the November election.
Ironically, the potential greater progressive lean of the L.A. City Council may not be reflected in a newly constituted Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
If state Sen. Bob Hertzberg is successful in capturing the Third Supervisorial District against progressive West Hollywood Councilmember Lindsey Horvath, the board would skew more moderate. The winner replaces progressive incumbent Sheila Kuehl.
If Hertzberg frequently aligns with Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Janice Hahn becomes the swing vote on the five-member board.
Another interesting outcome on the county ballot could result if embattled Sheriff Alex Villanueva is successfully re-elected at the same time Measure A passes giving power to the Board of Supervisors to fire the sheriff. Measure A was put on the ballot by disgruntled supervisors specifically to dump Villanueva. If passed, it will take four supervisors to vote to remove the sheriff for misconduct.
Much attention will fall on the board’s newest member to determine the sheriff’s fate.
It is hard to imagine if the voters decide to keep the sheriff that the board will act otherwise, but it’s fascinating to contemplate these two opposite forces — re-electing the sheriff and giving the supervisors the ability to fire him — colliding by will of the voters.
The power of voters to trump the wishes of elected representatives is becoming more prevalent in California. While limited in this election, the effort to overturn government action is on the rise.
The principal method is the use of referendum power, part of California’s triumvirate of voter power granted by direct democracy — initiative, referendum, and recall.
Biden’s fantasy student loan forgiveness
Desal plant rightly gets the green light
A doctor’s perspective on the 7th anniversary of California’s medical aid-in-dying Law
How many more Los Angeles city officials will end up on trial?
Los Angeles mayoral debate misleads on approaches to homelessness
On the state November ballot is Proposition 31, which is an attempt to overturn a law passed by the legislature and signed by the governor to ban flavored tobacco. The use of the referendum is becoming more common. The 2020 election saw a referendum undo bail reform approved by Sacramento.
More referendums are expected in the next election cycle. On the local level in Los Angeles, there is an effort to undo a city ordinance to set minimum wages for health care workers. On the state level, two signature gathering efforts are in progress to qualify referendums for a future ballot to undo legislative mandates to set up a labor law council that can mandate regulations and minimum wages for fast-food workers and one by the oil companies to stop a ban on oil and gas wells within 3200 feet of schools and other structures.
Public policy decisions are no longer the exclusive purview of elected officials.
The voters will have a say—or they just might move.
Joel Fox is a political analyst and adjunct professor at the Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Public Policy