Tag Archives: Los Angeles City council

Los Angeles Council District 2: Krekorian vs. Essel

Well, I got the main part of my prediction correct regarding the outcome of the 2nd Council District race.  The other…not so much.

With full results in:

Krekorian: 4,929 (34.1%)

Essel: 4,104 (28.39%)

Galatzan: 1,874 (12.94)

Upshot: we’ll have a runoff election on December between Paul Krekorian and Chris Essel, and I’m expecting Krekorian’s first-place finish (with room to spare) to encourage people to start considering the possibility of an open seat in the 43rd a little more strongly.  But as students of politics, what can we learn?

First, election day is no longer election day.  For the first time that I can remember in a campaign that wasn’t mail-only, more ballots were cast via absentee than in person.  Total turnout in this election was 11.74%, a total of 14,525 ballots.  And of those, 54.64% were cast by absentee.

With less than half the votes being cast on election day, the importance of GOTV weekend field becomes significantly diminished.  Instead, the election seems to become more about who can raise the early money and generate the early field operation to reach the absentee voters–a fact which Judy Chu made abundantly clear on May 19th.

Just like Chu did in May, Krekorian seems to have done that here.  While Krekorian finished up election day with a hair over 34% of the vote, he got over 39% of the absentee vote (you’ll have to trust me on that because that data isn’t available online right now and I didn’t cache it).  Galatzan, on the other hand, gained a couple of points, while Essel stayed in roughly the same place.

I think it’s about time for campaigns in special elections like this to realize that absentee ballot drop week is the new GOTV weekend. In CA-32, fully a quarter of the ballots were cast by absentee.  That seemed high at the time.  Now it’s over half in this election.  People just aren’t going to the polls any more for special elections, and that needs to be taken into account by any campaign that’s worth its salt.

Now, we have more than two months of campaigning left, but my initial prognostication says that Krekorian will win this in December.  First, turnout will be even lower than before, increasing the importance of the absentees.  Second, the election will be in December, which means that it could be cold or rainy, further depressing turnout in an electorate that skews older.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see 60% of the ballots cast in the runoff to come from absentees.

One last note:  Eric Hacopian is probably the hottest mail consultant in the state right now.  Fresh from engineering Emmanuel Pleitez’ head-turning campaign in CA-32, Hacopian turns around and gives Krekorian a handy victory in the 2nd Council District primary.  Nice going.

LA City Council Unanimously Passes Resolution Condemning Iraqi Torture of Gay Men

On Wednesday, after hearing several emotional speeches, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a resolution that “calls upon the government of Iraq to prevent the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and protect the right to life and the right of all its citizens to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The resolution, sponsored by openly gay council member Bill Rosendahl, is the first public statement by a city or official government body in the United States condemning the torturous actions and murder of gay men in Iraq. Among the atrocious actions is the rounding up of gay men, gluing their anuses shut and giving them a diarrhetic, causing their digestive systems to shut down, ending in death.

The hearing began with an opening from Rosendahl, stating “While we’re standing here in this great country, right now, in Iraq . . . We are seeing gay people rounded up and killed. As I’m standing here, our people are being murdered. Our government needs to focus on it.”

Rosendahl then handed the proceeding over to Hossein Alizadeh from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, whose organization's motto is “Human Rights for Everyone. Everywhere.”

Mr. Alizadeh read a letter from a 25-year old gay man in Iraq who feared for his life.

“My problem is that I’m a gay, and as a gay man I can’t live a normal life in Iraq because,” the letter read. “Every time I walk on the street I wonder what may happen to me today. To protect myself, I have to lie to everyone and pretend that I am a straight person. It is really hard to be a 24/7 liar out of the fear of death…I keep asking myself if this is going to be MY LIFE!!!

“I have no one to turn to.

“My family doesn’t know about my homosexuality…if they find out, they will disown me because I will become a disgrace to them. They may even try to kill me to protect their honor.”

The letter is posted in full at the bottom.

While reading this letter, Mr. Alizadeh played the following a PowerPoint presentation that included text from posters distributed throughout Baghdad, calling for the death of homosexuals, as well as witnesses and quotes from news reports.

Mr. Alizadeh concluded his presentation, stating, “There are hundreds of people like him in Iraq that are being tortured to death and killed everyday.”

Following the reading of the letter, Ally Bolour, Immigration Attorney specializing in LGBT asylum and co-chair of the IGLHRC board, spoke. “I’ve been working human rights, asylum cases for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folk from all over the world. And after almost thirteen years of being in this business, I’ve seriously thought I’ve seen it all. When I heard and what I saw what’s happening to Iraqi gays, just one word came to mind, one phrase – unconscionable, ” Mr. Bolour said. “How can we as the civilized west, the civilized world, sit by, idly, and not do something?”

The floor was then opened up for public commentary. The crowd in the chamber room contained many union members present for other issues, including the service workers' union SEIU, who were waiting to hear a resolution that would pressure the local airports to provide health insurance to their members.

When those from the public spoke in support of the Iraq resolution, the union members stood in solidarity. In a further show of support, Jose Morales, member of the executive board of the SEIU of local chapter 1877, spoke with a translator.

“We’re an organization that opposes discrimination wherever it is,” Mr. Morales declared. “Whether it’s in Iraq, whether it’s in Mexico, and we’re here today in opposition to what’s happening in Iraq. So we’re here today to demand dignity and respect all over the world for our people.”

Rosendahl then stood up, amending the resolution's motion and heightening its urgency by adding a call to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “to take action, to end the persecution and murder of Iraqi gays, including but not limited to making a strong public and international statement, condemning the action and exerting all necessary pressure on the Iraq government to take action.”

At this point, council members took emotional stands of support for the resolution. Councilmember Tony Cardenas stood first. “We as a country stand for equal justice and equal rights for every single human being,” he said. “I think the city of LA should stand up and say we’ve been made aware of this, and because we’re aware of it, we’re saying as a city, that we shall not stand silently and just watch it happen.”

Councilmember Janice Hahn followed with an emotional declaration. “It’s just so hard to hear. It’s so hard to listen to this. It’s unbelievable torture. And it’s interesting that we’ve had this broad civic debate in this country about where we stand as Americans on torture, “she said. “This is certainly a level of torture that I think really rises above all the memos the war memos that we’ve seen released during the last month.”

“And when I say the pledge of allegiance, when it gets to the end phrase, 'with liberty and justice for all,' I always add 'someday,'” she continued. “I believe there is not justice for all at this moment, and as long as we hear stories about that on this planet I will not be able to say that there is liberty and justice for all anywhere. An injury to one is an injury to all. We pray that this type of torture will come to an end.”

District 10 Councilmember Herb J. Wesson, Jr. had an important objection to Rosendahl's earlier statement. “I take issue with one statement that you [Rosendahl] made when you said 'these are my people.’ That’s not true. They are human beings. They are our people. And I think we need to get away from that. People need to just start seeing people for who they are.”

He continued, “I feel real personal where it relates to this because there’s not a member here that doesn’t have a relative, even if you don’t want to admit, that is either gay or lesbian. I got like nine in my family! OK. Every week it seems like I get a new addition. That’s my family, ok. That’s my people.”

He then referred to the importance of the resolution. “The least we can do is stand up and say, 'We know this is going on, it’s wrong, and we’re lifting our voice, saying it’s wrong. Stop it.' I don’t see a reason why the president could not say something about this.”

Councilmember Ed Reyes followed. “This is the 2nd largest city in the country. For this council to make a statement, it will be heard. It will be heard by many.”

Mr. Reyes then made a connection between the torture and the bullying of LGBT youth in America. “Right now, today, throughout the country today, there are children who are being bullied, there are kids being attack because of the way they are, how they behave, because of the tendency to be different. And that’s wrong. And it’s all connected. The message of allowing this to occur, of sticking our heads in the sand, it’s wrong.”

“The United States went to Iraq on the basis of protecting human rights,” Councilmember Jose Huizar reminded the chamber. “And when we see it’s actually gotten worse in respect to gays and lesbians we got to raise the flag and say, 'This is wrong.'”

President of the Council, Wendy Greuel, then called for a vote. The resolution passed unanimously 12-0 to thunderous applause.

I’m a 25 year old graduate student from Baghdad and my name is Ahmad. I want to thank you very much for caring about me and my problem. Finally, after many desperate years of hopelessness I found a group of people that understand and care about me.

My problem is that I’m a gay, and as a gay man I can’t live a normal life in Iraq because:

• My life is in danger. I live in continuous fear of people finding out that I’m gay.

• I can’t express my deepest emotions. I can’t love…I can’t tell those who I care about that I love them… It is like being tortured from inside.

In the past few months I have heard of many cases of violence against gay men, including killing, torturing, and public humiliation of us. The religious vigilantes (known as Maghawer) have kidnapped many men suspected of being gay. No one knows anything about the fate of those gays.


The Maghawer’s most popular method of torture for homosexuals is putting silicon glue on their anus to shot down their digestive system and then force them to take laxative drug to make them suffer.


Every time I walk on the street I wonder what may happen to me today. To protect myself, I have to lie to everyone and pretend that I am a straight person. It is really hard to be a 24/7 liar out of the fear of death…I keep asking myself if this is going to be MY LIFE!!!


I have no one to turn to. Not even other gay men or my family members. Recently I have been blackmailed by men I had sex with in the past. They told me either I have to have sex with them again or they will out me to my family, neighbors and even classmates. I had to choose between scandal and public humiliation and prostitution. But I decided that I can’t have sex with people I don’t love … so I decided to transfer to another college in Northern Iraq.


My family doesn’t know about my homosexuality…if they find out, they will disown me because I will become a disgrace to them. They may even try to kill me to protect their honor. I always have to pretend in front my family that I ‘m “normal”…but like any other straight man, my family wants me to marry a woman … I try to avoid that conversation as much as I can but there is a lot of pressure on me to get married.


I am not happy with myself. I am not proud of who I am.


A while back I went to a psychologist to see if he can treat me. I told him about my problem…he told me that homosexuality has no treatment in Iraq and only experienced doctors in developed countries can give me therapy.


The news made me so depressed that I started thinking of committing suicide. I feel even without vigilantes killing me, I AM ALREADY DEAD FROM INSIDE. I just want to know what wrong I have done. Do I have a choice to be gay? Do I want to humiliate myself? Do I want to live in constant fear and anxiety? Do I want my family & friends to hate and abandon me if they discover my truth? Do I want myself to be killed on the hand of uneducated people for something I didn’t choose?


I don’t want to make it long for you…but I want to let you know that I have already suffered too much and I don’t have the power to go through more pain and suffering.


And finally I want to thank you for your support and help…


My Regards and Best Wishes to ALL of YOU…

Iwill soon blog about my own personal account, including a public comment at the hearing I gave.

Reforming Term Limits as A Populist Movement?

There is a growing populist movement in the term limits arena, and it’s probably not what you think.  Well, if by populist you count PhDs in political science and some local city councils as a populist movement.  But even given the top-down nature of this rebellion, the move to loosen the restrictions on term limits is gaining momentum around the state.  The LA City Council has placed a measure on the ballot to increase the limit on terms from two to three and the OC Board of Supervisors is also considering doing so as well.  And of course, there is the multitude of discussions going on in Sacramento about decreasing restrictions in some sort of trade for redistricting reform.

Term limits just don’t work as they were intended it seems:

Populist fervor led term limits to be imposed across a wide swath of the nation beginning in 1990, in a belief that limiting politicians’ length of service would make them more accountable to voters. But there has been a growing sense among political experts that term limits have wrought unintended consequences: diminished policy expertise, increased special interest power and the constant distraction of looking for the next elected office….Still, term limits remain popular with voters, and political observers say attempts to change them face an uphill battle. (LA Times 7/31/06)

Popular indeed.  A 2004 Field Poll revealed that 75% of the state’s electorate favored term limits in general.  More recent polls suggest a slight, but not major slide in support for term limits. 

However, I’m not sure that you need to totally scrap the concept of term limits. We just need some revisions.  The term limits reform package being floated in the Legislature is one example of this.  It allows legislators to serve longer terms in one house of the Legislature, rather than having to swap houses after 6 or 8 years.  This is a policy recommended by a 2004 PPIC report.

Overall, the effects of term limits on Sacramento’s policymaking process have been profound. In both houses, committees now screen out fewer bills assigned to them and are more likely to see their work rewritten at later stages. As a body, the Legislature is less likely to alter the governor’s budget, and its own budget process fails to encourage fiscal discipline. Legislative oversight of the executive branch has declined significantly. “Legislators are learning more quickly than in the past, but frequent changes in the membership – and especially in the leadership – are taking a toll,” says Bruce Cain, director of the Institute of Governmental Studies and Robson Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. (PPIC 11/10/04)

If the framing on these changes is changed from removing term limit restrictions to reforming them in order to gain better leadership, I think a ballot measure wouldn’t be totally ridiculous.  It’s hard to see a real constituency for a No Campaign on such a measure, but a solid Yes campaign would be required to inform the voters of the good government effects of such a revision.