It is time to open the ballot sitting on my kitchen counter.

Only, the more I learn of politics, the more greatly I dread this moment. These decisions may be very consequential even while your own one vote matters only in principle. Principle is your guide wire to the barn in a blizzard of misinformation, disinformation and bad faith.

And while these electoral choices may not influence yours, I share them here as you have the right to understand the perspective from which I represent your voice in AD55.

LAUSD races

As ever, the privatization of our public schools is on the table as a new board majority reflects varying degrees of infatuation with outsourcing and segregating and uber-managing as opposed to, you know, teaching.

With the political demise of board president and erstwhile charter CEO Ref Rodriguez following felony charges for campaign financing shenanigans, and the subsequent ascendence of privatization-foes to board majority {i.e., Dr. McKenna in LAUSD1; Dr. Rivas in LAUSD2; Principal Schmerelson in LAUSD3; and Assemblymember Goldberg in LAUSD5}, the charter school industry lobbyists have been in overdrive seeding wedges to advantage their candidates.

Incumbent LAUSD3 candidate Schmerelson is under intense pressure from long time charter OG Dan Chang. Incumbent LAUSD7 boardmember Franklin has long association with the public-private education expropriation project of former Mayor Villaraigosa’s, the “Partnership for Los Angeles Schools” (PLAS). Two open seats in LAUSD1 and LAUSD5 are 3-ring circuses reflecting the ideological giants of (a) philanthropic investment and privatization interests, (b) the power of Union solidarity among service industry workers, and (c) the prerogative of the teacher’s Union in an Educational battlefield (Figure 1).


Figure 1: Spending from Independent Expenditure (IE) accounts over two election cycles in LAUSD board districts, 2022 (even districts) and 2024 (odd districts), is characterized by three distinct entities: (i) Privatization interests (orange); (ii) Schoolsite Service Workers’ Union (purple); (iii) Teachers’ Union (blue).


Table 2: Detail of PAC spending within entities.

Boardmember Franklin’s Chief-of-Staff Watts is running with the charter mantel in LAUSD1. But arrayed against her is the board incumbent’s endorsed candidate, longtime teacher Hendy Newbill; plus the teacher’s Union endorsed candidate parent-leader Al-Alim. That the pair would split the vote and favor the charter candidate is only some of the reason spending has been so light in favor of Watts until recently. More stunning has been the “February Surprise” strategic revelation by her professional handlers amplifying Al-Alim’s social media ignominy. That his past and predilections was insufficiently vetted speaks to the racetrack climate that consultants create, victimizing candidate and electorate alike, prioritizing scandal and minimizing reflection; maximizing trumpeting and canceling listening.

The infinite pockets of gigantic wealthy investor-privatizers have been poised to overtake Al-Alim’s populist support garnered from the aggregate contributions of “small” teachers. Their long-planned, “last minute” spending belies any notion that this transgression of Al-Alim just happened to come out as and when it did. His opponents would have plotted and planned this outcome, outfoxing the professional association Union members more gainfully – and virtuously – employed teaching.

Which is not to confuse sympathy for Al-Alim’s sandbagging, with approval for his positions. Hendy Newbill has all along clearly been the better candidate for setting school policy. While the elephants fling glossy money into mailboxes, Sherlett Hendy Newbill has the quiet confidence of her community.

The same ludicrous vote-splitting has been setup in LAUSD5 as well. The populist, hero-candidate Fidencio Gallardo of Bell, rose as a phoenix from the ashes of his City’s corruption. Even while a charter-friendly, ethically-challenged, long-time associate of that exact sort of conflagration reaps the benefit of the split vote in this race. The teacher’s Union has endorsed a third teacher candidate Griego, pushing back against the legacy of Gallardo’s legendary boss and mentor, incumbent Goldberg, who now full-throatedly endorses her mentee. Gallardo deserves your vote.

This three-way split is very plain to see among the Independent Expenditures (IE) mapped by board district (Figure 1), and detailed in Table 1. The imbalance is not new, it is not subtle. Though this map shows just two election cycles, since (at least) the Public School Choice battle of 2009, the narrative of “teacher’s union v. charter-reformers” has been simplistic. In fact, there has long been a well-resourced alliance among the powerful SEIU 99 (Education service workers) with privatization interests, and a nonprofit industrial complex (NPIC). The teacher’s Union is a third, and unevenly matched player in this tussle. The blue color in the series of donut charts does not comprise one-half the acreage displayed, though these are percents, normalized for comparison within each District, not between them. Overall across both election cycles, IE spending by privatization interests has been 1.4x that of the teacher’s Union, and Education-service worker Unions have spent 0.8x as much.   While in terms of money raised to date across these two cycles rather than spent (not shown), the service worker union has raised three times (3x) that of the teacher’s union, and privatization interests 1.7x as much.

The figure maps the strength of the NPIC in east LA districts and the privatization preoccupation along the wealthier, coastal communities. The outer rings represent money spent in support only of a candidate; the inner ring is “negative” spending in opposition. These data are downloaded through March 1, 2024, and displayed in a table below.

The “people’s” choice for LAUSD1, LAUSD3 are LAUSD5 and Hendy-Newbill, Schmerelson, and Gallardo.

The Measures

Proposition 1:  What a mess. What’s a voter to do? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I’ve yet to meet anyone not in agreement there is a humanitarian crisis on the streets of LA. And no one who works with kids and schools seems not to agree the kids are not alright: mental health services are stretched thin-to-nonexistent. Most particularly at the County level, where this proposition will rob 5% from Peter to pay at the state level to house Paul. Paul’s substance abuse issues would be addressable under this proposition; a good thing to be sure. Paul would eventually see treatment beds constructed across all of California’s 58 counties, an undeniable boon. But in the meantime, scores of family services will be defunded, leaving mental health issues without their own “home”. And private “partnerships” will be munificently rewarded, hardly the neediest of constituencies.

This political omnibus is the acme of negotiated deals we cannot afford to refuse. I still haven’t decided, perhaps you are more clairvoyant.

Measure HLA:  Mandating funds for a polarizing, decade-old mobility plan — what could go wrong? Funding-by-initiative is not good hygiene for GoodGovernance. And yet, neither is unfunded mandates. For mobility and public transportation to become the focus of generalized, often generational knee-jerk hostility is just senseless. How have we all gone so off-the-rails? Boosting public and lower-impact transportation is a win-win-win-win – it’s hard to count the number of ways we all would win. I’m voting for this despite all the unworkability in which it is steeped. There is no excuse – at-all-period – for Los Angeles not to be the bicycle capitol of the world. And it’s not even rocket-science.

HLA is a lousy way to get “there”, and I agree it’s unlikely to do so. But voting yes on HLA is for me, a statement of impatience with our neglect of vital, Common, public transportation policy… and action.

The Judges

Our implementation of the judicial arm of democracy is arguably more retrograde than the rest of it, with strong competition from antithetical anachronisms such as the Electoral College or extrajudicial killings.

In California we elect judges to a judicial system most know little-to-nothing about. We render popular judgement on qualification to an expertise about which we ourselves are largely ignorant. We construct artificial competition between candidates arbitrarily, for seats which have no inherent meaning. There is no actual office fulfilled when you vote for judge in seat #abc. Whoever holds that seat will be assigned a “court” or courtroom, by a supervising officer, completely independent of that seat’s number or name. Judges are assigned a jurisdiction having to do with internal needs and politics of the system; nothing to do with the nominal office to which you elected them, nothing even to do with that judge’s experience or suitability – the basis for which you supposedly chose between them in the first place.

If ever there were a tranche for which Proportional-Ranked Choice Voting were indicated, this would be it. Gone would be the frustration of choosing between two wonderfully suited candidates who happen to be pitted against one another arbitrarily, in the extra-frustrating instance of CA judicial races. Gone would be the affront of choosing a scary individual in a race with no good candidates, while another race weeps an embarrassment of candidate-riches.

The entirety of the judicial candidates’ names should be thrown in one giant electoral-hopper and they should all compete against one another collectively; against their own merits individually.

LAist (aka the written-mouthpiece of KPCC) has a wonderful series on this election including this specific focus on the judges. From there find the professional lawyers’ Bar Association’s evaluation of candidate’s qualifications here. Peruse the People Magazine analog for lawyers, MetNews, which lists their judicial endorsements in the masthead. Or consider simply the following unjustified list of choices culled from endorsement interviews and questionnaires, the above sources and online punditry as well as friend’s:

There are additional closely matched candidates whose names are omitted for clarity. But would it were possible to rank those who are acceptable, and leave unremarked those who are not. I am thinking of writing an initiative to address this – any constitutional lawyers willing to help?

Los Angeles County District Attorney

I am no more an expert about the DA’s office than I am on judges’ responsibilities. In the past I have affirmed qualities such as competence and efficiency. And in the context of criminal justice reform, a refrain commonly clamors for lived experience and empathy. Compassion should always be an important component of any democratically elected official’s repertoire.

But one forum after another presents a stage overflowing with Deputy DA’s, united in their dismay for the chaos around and exodus from, their office. This degree of disrespect and contravention is unpopular in today’s MeToo culture and climate. Yet while many an elected official has been sidelined for lesser workplace faults, popular opprobrium is selective in practice.

But what if the dissent reflects true reform? Are the complaints an integral sign of it?

If so, the disorder should calm, not grow. The process should be unburdened of admonishments on the taxpayers’ dime; there should be credible, steady evidence of improvement and reform. But instead, viewing that stage is to perceive a myriad of semaphore signals suggesting the emperor among us has no clothes.

The imperative of justice and judicial reform is not really in question; the system inflicts disproportionate harm to the marginalized within it. The bias is racialized and class-linked, ethnically soused and unfair. No one wants this, no one should abide it. But it’s hard to tease cause from effect. And meanwhile everyone should beware the motives of a well-funded, singular drive from nowhere.

Just as I suspected in 2020, nothing subsequently has reversed my earlier disregard for this incumbent, one-time Republican policeman. I will vote for John McKinney, suspecting a man with heart, choosing from within the complex organization he seeks to lead and reform, with confidence in the ways and means he elucidates to effect improvements.

Assembly District 55

Unlike the DA race in which I stand by my earlier analysis, I believe the record of Assemblyman Bryan in office has belied my unease. Asm. Bryan has effectively introduced numerous important, society-improving bills in Sacramento, and we all are lucky his imaginative legislating supersedes my unwarranted misgivings. Asm. Bryan does our district proud.

Federal Representative and Senator

The incumbent, Ted Lieu, has represented us ably in the House and I am proud to send him back; redistricting makes this the first time he appears on my ballot.

Our three defecting Representatives would all make fine Senators, in different ways. They will each make fine citizens and public servants in whatever endeavors they pursue going forward. The energy invested in this race dismays me. Collectively we are staring at a constitutional crisis baring down upon America in slow motion. Why any of us is distracted to the point of animosity over this Senatorial skirmish is bewildering. Choose deftly, leave some energy for more pressing concerns.  J6?  Moms4Liberty?  LOKA?  White Supremacy? Jordan Henry?

Where To Focus

There is a lot to worry about and I am deeply worried with the meta-worry of them all, that we are districted fighting amongst ourselves while the capacity for everything to get a whole lot worse, looms.

Pay attention to school boards (in Glendale, across Orange County, in Santa Clarita Valley and Ventura) where trivial, trumped-up concerns mask an opportunity to sow hatred, violence, fear, alienation. Revolution is only a good plan if what comes after is an improvement.

Pay attention to institutional self-dealing that protects power for antidemocratic officeholders. Sometimes our very own are duplicitous in trading political favors for expediency, friendship, indebtedness. Don’t be fooled, pick Serena Oberstein for CD11. There are choices for the 5th Supervisorial District that are not red in incumbency. George Whiteside is poised to whiteout the vile Republican incumbent in the Antelope Valley’s CD27.

Member, County Central Committee, 55th Assembly District

Turnout, as has widely been reported, is low. And lowest of all amongst our youngers. Please do not give up the fight to instill the value of your one vote. It may not be much but it’s more than nothing. Please consider your vote at the grassroots, too. I am running with this slate of 6 other strong women for the privilege of contributing to the Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee. Thank you for considering all seven of us: