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Looking At The New Year For Smoother(?) LA Politics

Los Angeles City Hall -- an art-deco style building with a pyramidal rooftop and white facade.
Los Angeles City Hall.
(Chava Sanchez for LAist)
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Well, friends, 2022 is almost gone. Adíos to the mercury in retrograde (of this year), but also thank you to Bad Bunny and Beyoncé for their music.

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A lot has happened. It felt like the era of the new normal began to blossom, the midterm elections brought in a rainbow wave across the country — and in L.A. we saw several progressive candidates be elected to offices.

While some of us are homegrown Angelenos, there’s a lot of stuff that’s not easy to comprehend about L.A. We launched How to LA, the newsletter and podcast, earlier this year to help all of us understand this city a little better. There’s been dozens of newsletters and now 50 episodes of the podcast trying to connect with you — our readers and listeners — by helping curious Angelenos connect with others, discover the new, navigate the confusing, and even drive some change along the way.

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If you'd like to listen to our reflections on our work this year, you can check it out here.

Politicians Working Together In 2023

But let's go back to that November election in L.A.. Former L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva was replaced by Robert Luna. Voters elected the first Black woman to hold the mayor’s office. And, again, a bunch of new politicians who are now working with colleagues to repair a city government that was shaken with leaked secret recordings of councilmembers saying racist and derogatory comments.

I hit up Kenneth Mejia, our new city controller about where his office (and thoughts) fit into all of this — a new era of our city. (Read more about his non-political background and why he launched his campaign by reading my colleague Josie’s Huang’s story.)

Ever since he began running for office, he’s been talking about accessible and adequate housing and eradicating the homeless crisis. He previously said he wants to slash the police budget, a move Mayor Karen Bass doesn’t agree with. But they have already begun working together, with a chat at least once a week, he says.

The first item on their joint agenda is helping unhoused people. “I'm on board, it's just a matter of making sure we have the right data,” he says. “How are we getting people off the streets and into temporary housing or permanent housing… She wants to cut red tape and make buildings and construction of affordable housing or permanent supportive housing more efficient and effective. And those are all things that I support, even before becoming controller.”

So it seems like things are moving forward on that topic. But I really wanted to know how the mix of the left and center in L.A. could work together.

There’s a “left upward pull on this new group,” says Frank Stoltze, our Civics and Democracy correspondent.

“What we've seen over the last few years is this growing influence of progressives in the city, and there's a lot of reasons for that,” he says. “The growing gap between the rich and the poor, which is so visible in the form of homelessness and the huge emphasis on a new style of policing and demand for new style policing. And that's certainly galvanized the left.”

Another part of Mejia’s goals, he says, is to show residents transparency with how public dollars are being spent and help them understand what the city controller actually does.

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“Essentially, I just want all of our city data to be at the tip of everyone's fingers so they don't have to beg the City Council… to give them information,” he says. “It's on a website that is mobile friendly, it's in different languages.”

Mejia honed into the visualization part in his campaign. Did you ever see his billboard breaking down how the city spends money on the Los Angeles Police Department? Those were Mejia’s.

Here's Frank's take: "He may conduct many of the very same audits that other city controllers have conducted. But I think that we're going to see them more and we're going to understand them better."

OK, one last thing. If you are curious about city politics for next year, these are Frank’s things to follow in 2023:

  • How will the City Council work to get eight votes to move issues forward? Five candidates lean progressive and they will have to get the others to support their agenda. 
  • The special election on CD 6 to replace Nury Martinez. It’s a unique district that is made up of mostly Latinos, and it’s where Sen. Alex Padilla is from. Will he be helping to seek a replacement and finding somebody to replace her?

You can listen to more of my conversations with Kenneth Mejia and Frank Stoltze here

BTW, we're going to be off DURING the holidays. Have a Happy One!

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

We’re here to help curious Angelenos connect with others, discover the new, navigate the confusing, and even drive some change along the way.

More News

  • *At LAist we will always bring you the news freely, but occasionally we do include links to other publications that may be behind a paywall. Thank you for understanding! 

  • COVID-19 cases have dipped, but deaths related to the virus have increased. Hospital beds are still in short supply. L.A. County health officials continue to stress vigilance and suggest wearing masks in public.
  • A shortage of psychiatric staff in the L.A. County Jail system has led to what some have described as a "Dickensian" environment. Officials say the jail is facing a roughly 40% vacancy in mental health positions.
  • The members of unions representing academic workers at the University of California are wrapping up voting today to ratify a contract agreement reached last week by negotiators and UC leadership.
  • An illicit drug lab was found under a home in Granada Hills, the L.A. Police Department tweeted on Wednesday night. Ecstasy, Magic Mushrooms are among the drugs recovered.
  • If you’re flying through LAX this week, about 200,000 other people a day will have the same plans as you. We’ve been sharing practical tips this month to make travel less hectic, so here’s our rundown onlast-minute ways to save time in line and look after your luggage.
  • The beach on Christmas? We’re going to be experiencing weather above 70 degrees in L.A. on Dec. 24 and 25. *stares at East Coast.
  • The music has officially died at the 100-room recording studio Bedrock.LA – famous for hosting a recording for “Weird Al” Yankovic. It survived the pandemic but a structural issue to its building forced it to close for good
  • New research shows that representation of Asian Americans on TV has increased, largely driven by streaming services. But there’s been subpar representation in areas like broadcast news, including in L.A.
  • Researchers have found that groundwater levels in the Central Valley are declining at an alarming rate, which scientists say will have a huge impact on underground water reserves. Read here for more information. (Los Angeles Times)  
  • For many in L.A., the holidays mean tamales. LAist's food editor Gab Chabrán introduces us to some of the best you can find around town.

Wait... One More Thing

Emo Night, Posadas, Watch 'Gremlins' — A Fun Holiday Weekend

an illuminated star sits atop an illuminate christmas tree
San Gabriel's 45th annual tree lighting ceremony takes place Tuesday, Dec. 7 starting at 6 p.m. at Plaza Park.
(Courtesy of the city of San Gabriel)

Christmas is Sunday and Hanukkah celebrations continue through Monday. If merry-making hasn’t exhausted you yet we have some fun ideas for you this weekend, like Club Decades: Emo Night tonight. Or if you want to be more chill, catch a Gremlins double feature at New Beverly Cinema (You can find places to watch Elf and It’s a Wonderful Life, too).

On Friday or Saturday you can join in on an L.A. tradition since 1930: Las Posadas at Olvera Street, reenacting the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem with music, costume and festivities. And the ice rink in Santa Monica is open through mid-January. Enjoy!

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