In ‘Surf City,’ a sharp right turn by the City Council

Huntington Beach conservatives push social agenda

Just three months after being elected to the Huntington Beach City Council, the new conservative majority voted to bar the rainbow flag from flying over City Hall each spring in celebration of Pride Month.

The prior council’s decision in 2021 to start raising the flag on city property — though common elsewhere in California — grabbed headlines in a city that for decades has borne a reputation for tolerating hate and bigotry. It turned out to be a short-lived embrace of liberalism. The new majority elected in fall 2022 argued that raising any flags other than the American and military banners did nothing more than divide the city.

In most cities, the work of local elected officials — passing budgets, maintaining infrastructure and approving contracts — is carried out without much fanfare. But this year, the Huntington Beach City Council has taken on a range of issues not endemic to day-to-day operations, landing the town known as Surf City smack in the center of the nation’s culture wars.

Over the course of several months, the council declared Huntington Beach to be a “no mask and no vaccine mandate city.” It sued the state over requirements that the city zone to create more housing over the next decade, arguing it would fundamentally change the beach city lifestyle. It created a council-appointed review panel to screen children’s books in the city library for sexual content, and drafted a ballot measure to require voter identification at the polls.

“Our City Council majority was elected to shake things up, and we’re doing just that,” said Councilmember Tony Strickland, who started his term as mayor.

Huntington Beach gained notoriety during the pandemic as a hotbed of rebellion against COVID-19 restrictions. It’s a place that in 2020 elected Tito Ortiz — a mixed martial arts fighter whose campaign slogan was “Make Huntington Beach Safe Again” — to the City Council.

Ortiz, a fervent supporter of former President Trump, received more than 42,000 votes — the most in a council race in the city’s history — only to resign less than a year later, citing persistent attacks for his refusal to mask during meetings and at local businesses.

So clearly has Huntington Beach been labeled MAGA country that it’s on the radar of the former president. Trump’s plane flew over Huntington Beach on the first day of this year’s September Pacific Airshow, one of the city’s most popular events, a sighting that organizers called an appearance by a “special guest.”

In this longtime GOP stronghold, Republicans still make up the majority of voters. But the number of registered Democrats and independent voters has risen in recent years, and the demographics have grown more diverse. About 60% of residents are white and nearly 20% are Latino. Unlike many beach communities in Southern California, the city is economically mixed, with wealthier residents generally living closer to the coast and more middle-class folks residing inland.

As the city has become more purple, residents say politics have created a divide, with each side jockeying for more power on the City Council.

In 2021, the council had a short-lived ride with a liberal majority. In 2022, the council took a hard swing right with the election of Strickland, a former state assemblyman and senator who runs a political consulting firm; retired police officer Pat Burns; Huntington Beach businessman Casey McKeon; and Gracey Van Der Mark, a vocal parental rights activist.

The four campaigned as a slate, emphasizing what many residents see as issues core to daily life in Huntington Beach: They would crack down on homeless encampments, ensure business-friendly regulations and allow the city attorney to pursue legal fights to buck state mandates on housing and other issues.

But, once elected, the new majority pushed a social agenda that some residents see as outside the purview of local elected officials — and not central to the daily activities of the people working and living in the city.

“It’s definitely a culture war of sorts going on down here,” said resident Carol Daus. “It’s just wearing to people who’ve lived here, like I have for so many years. It used to be the council would work together to build things up. And, right now, it’s all about tearing things down.”

That’s not to say the new majority is without support. A vocal faction of local conservatives applaud their efforts to erase “woke” liberalism and battle a state government that doesn’t represent their values.

Resident Cari Swan led an unsuccessful charge last year to recall some members of the former City Council, including a Republican who she said too often voted with Democrats.

Recall proponents at the time cited frustration with the council’s fraying relationship with hard-charging City Atty. Michael Gates, who had made a name for himself fighting state officials on immigration and zoning laws. They took issue with the council appointing Rhonda Bolton, a Democrat and the city’s first Black council member, to the seat vacated by Ortiz rather than holding a special election. Bolton’s appointment created the fleeting tenure of a Democratic majority.

“They came on so aggressive with a massive government intrusion,” Swan said of the prior council, adding that they “pushed us so far to a bigger government footprint that it created this pendulum swing.”

Sue Welfringer, a 27-year resident of Huntington Beach, voted for the four candidates on the basis of their campaign platforms. Their messaging around housing — and keeping Huntington Beach a manageable size — appealed to her, as well as their promise to help businesses thrive.

Instead, she has watched, aghast, as the council voted to police library books, ban the pride flag and rewrite a decades-old human dignity resolution to delete all mention of intolerance of hate crimes. It has all been too much, she said, adding that she’s now embarrassed to tell friends and neighbors that she voted for the new majority.

“Which one of our council members campaigned on the platform of changing our library collection?” she asked. “I must have missed that message. I feel duped.”

Like Welfringer, many residents found themselves alarmed — and uncomfortable — last summer when the council dissolved a human relations committee formed more than two decades ago after the 1990s-era murder of a Black man and attempted murder of a Native American at the hands of white supremacists.

In those same years, Huntington Beach attracted notoriety as a gathering spot for white supremacists, a reputation that has dogged the city. In April 2021, a White Lives Matter protest at the Huntington Beach pier drew a cross-section of far-right proponents, including gun rights supporters and antiabortion advocates, as well as members of the extremist militia group Proud Boys. Hundreds of counterprotesters also showed up, holding signs that read “Death to the Klan” and chanting “Nazis go home.”

Leaders have worked for years to rebrand the community, leaning into its “Surf City” image as a family-friendly locale for ocean outings and a place where families move to raise their children.

As part of that effort, the City Council in the 1990s passed a Declaration of Policy About Human Dignity aimed to unite the community. The original document stated Huntington Beach “declares that everyone should be treated with courtesy and respect, regardless of their racial background, their nation of origin, the religion they practice, their sexual orientation, gender or disability status. It is the right of all citizens to pursue their daily lives with the knowledge that they will not be physically harmed or verbally abused.”

Shortly after the new council majority was elected, they voted to dissolve the human relations committee tasked with upholding the policy and later voted 4 to 3 to approve a new document that removed references to hate crimes. The new resolution references protecting children from “exploitation and sexual grooming” and states that the city “will recognize from birth the genetic differences between male and female and respect the strengths and benefits of each.”

The terminology is widely seen as a dog whistle for evangelicals and social conservatives such as Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida, who has used similar language to roll back recognition and rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

In October, Van Der Mark put forth a resolution, passed by the council, to declare that mask and vaccine mandates are banned within the city’s jurisdiction. The resolution provides exceptions for those who test positive for COVID-19 and allows businesses the right to impose mask or vaccine requirements.

Opponents called it a political stunt designed to draw attention. Van Der Mark did not respond to multiple requests from The Times for comment for this article.

Days later, the council took up another hotly debated national issue: requirements for voters to show identification at the polls. Opponents of such requirements note cases of in-person voter fraud are rare and say such policies are aimed at disenfranchising marginalized populations, who often lack photo IDs. Under California law, voters generally are not required to show identification when casting a ballot. The exception is when a would-be voter has not provided the forms necessary to legally establish identity during the registration process.

Secretary of State Shirley Weber and Atty. General Rob Bonta sent a letter to the council urging it to abandon the proposed amendment to the city charter, saying it runs afoul of state law. Nonetheless, the council voted to place a measure on the March ballot asking voters to decide whether IDs should be required at the polls.

Strickland acknowledges these issues are not typical for city councils but said, “they are issues that have been brought to us by constituents.”

In contrast, Bolton, the council member appointed in 2021, said she sees a group of local politicians taking their cue from a new generation of polarizing conservative leaders making waves on the national front.

“What’s happening at the national level — the dysfunction and the partisanship — it’s all just trickling down,” she said. “I’m frequently critical of what I see happening because, I’m like, you’re importing all of these issues into our public policy discussions that don’t have anything to do with us. They’re not relevant.”

Bolton, an attorney, hopes the council can get back to shaping local measures crucial to a smooth-running city. The focus, she said, should be on the city budget, which is facing a $259,000 deficit in 2024-25, affordable housing, and ensuring communities such as Oak View, with a relatively high population of Latino residents, have the resources they need.

“If there’s one awesome thing that has happened — you could call it a silver lining — from all of this upheaval, it’s that there are a lot of people now who are engaged with local politics who had never paid attention before,” Bolton said.

One of the more controversial episodes, residents say, has been Van Der Mark’s book-cleansing campaign — mainly a move to bar sex education materials and books with LGBTQ+ themes from the children’s section of the city library. Van Der Mark sought more oversight of children’s books even before she was elected to the council. In 2020, she initiated a successful challenge to remove “Gender Queer: A Memoir” from the library’s young adult/teen section.

At an October meeting, the council majority voted to establish a 21-member advisory board empowered to review and remove materials in the library’s children’s section and to determine what new titles will hit the shelves going forward.

Hundreds of residents flooded the council chambers, where most spoke in opposition to a policy they said equated to a book ban. They held signs reading “Free people read freely” and “Leave our kids alone.”

Some residents fear the relentless focus on ideological issues will drive away newcomers and tourists. “Honestly, I’ve talked to young people who don’t even want to say they’re from Huntington Beach,” Welfringer said.

But for many others, the council majority are local celebrities. At a meeting this month, the council chambers erupted in hoots and applause when Van Der Mark was installed as the city’s 86th mayor.

Van Der Mark, wearing sparkling heels emblazoned with red, white and blue rhinestones in the shape of a flag, walked through the crowd hugging attendees. Some held signs pledging support. Others wore red baseball caps bearing her name. The night was historic, her fans said, as Van Der Mark became the first Latina in city history to hold the ceremonial post.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo likely to enter race for Congress

The battle to replace the retiring Rep. Anna Eshoo in a South Bay House seat next year is likely to draw another big name: former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. 

Liccardo, who was termed out of office last year, will be the guest at a fundraiser Sunday at the home of Cooper Teboe, a top Silicon Valley fundraiser whose clients include Rep. Ro Khanna. He is expected to form an exploratory committee before then, Eric Jaye, a longtime Democratic political consultant who has advised Liccardo on his two mayoral runs, told the Chronicle on Tuesday.

Jaye, a former adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, said Liccardo is consulting with thought leaders and others in the region about whether to run. 

“Is he very serious? You bet. Is he doing all the things a candidate does when they are very seriously looking at a race? For sure,” Jaye said. “He’s going to do his due diligence.” 

That includes raising money.

“I would love to invite you to come meet him and encourage you to donate to his campaign (I am personally giving a maxout donation),” Teboe wrote on the fundraiser invitation, which was first reported by business news site San Jose Spotlight.

While Liccardo has not yet filed the requisite paperwork to become a candidate, he has made no secret of his desire to run for Congress. Earlier this year, he told Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, that he had commissioned a poll on running against her and was considering a challenge. 

Lofgren told Spotlight: “I plan to run and I don’t usually run to lose.” 

Now Liccardo, 53, is eyeing another of the four House districts that represent portions of San Jose. Eshoo, 80, announced last week that she would not seek reelection next year. 

While Liccardo has some level of name recognition as the two-term mayor of California’s third-largest city, San Jose is split between four House districts. Jaye estimates that 36% to 40% of Eshoo’s House district is in the city of San Jose. Liccardo does not live in the district.  Members of the House are not required to live in the districts they represent.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, a friend of Eshoo’s, announced Wednesday that he also plans to run.

Simitian has $681,003 cash on hand in his House fundraising account — more than Eshoo ($599,672), according to campaign filings. Simitian has represented 85% of the congressional district over the more than two decades that he served in the Assembly, state Senate and on the Board of Supervisors. 

Assembly Member Evan Low, D-Sunnyvale, who has served nearly a decade in the Legislature after representing the city of Campbell on its City Council for eight years, is also likely to launch a campaign as soon as next week.

State Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park, told the Chronicle on Tuesday that he’s been “honored by all the people reaching out to me about the seat. I do love my current job. I’m taking some time to think about it and I haven’t made a decision yet.” 

Jaye said a poll of 400 likely primary voters commissioned by Liccardo’s supporters over the weekend found that he was the favorite among the candidates eyeing the race, with 16% support, followed by Simitian with 12%. No other candidate reached double digits. 

Click here to read the full article in SF Chronicle

Bass Wants to Bring Homeless People Indoors. Can She Secure Enough Beds?

Seated on the hard sidewalk along Cahuenga Boulevard, Rue Ryan arranged a batch of red roses she had plucked from the trash into a memorial for her “street mom,” Hyper, who died two years ago.

The work was an escape from the activity around her, as friends and fellow encampment residents hurriedly prepared to move into nearby hotel rooms, choosing what to keep or toss.

Outreach workers had counted about 25 people living under a 101 Freeway overpass in Hollywood, and on Tuesday, 11 of them went to one of three nearby hotels. A hot shower, a good night’s rest — these are luxuries housed people take for granted, Ryan said, and would help her find a job, some security and a permanent place to live.

“It’s dangerous out here. People are getting trafficked. People are getting killed,” said Ryan, a 32-year-old Alabama native. “You can’t sleep if you’re staying on the streets. So you’re exhausted. You’re not going to work. You look filthy and smell. Nobody wants to deal with you. How can you move forward in life? That’s why people get stuck out here so long.”

Ryan hoped to get a hotel room of her own as part of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’ “Inside Safe” initiative, which Bass unveiled Wednesday, nine days after she declared a citywide state of emergency on homelessness. The declaration she signed Wednesday formally kicks off a determined effort to clear encampments by offering people such as Ryan hotel and motel rooms.

Fellow politicians, nonprofit providers and some activists have applauded the urgency and focus that Bass is bringing to moving people off the street and into temporary housing, from which social workers can help them find permanent housing.

In the first two weeks of her administration, Bass has sought to centralize the work of identifying encampments with the most vulnerable people and which are the biggest sources of frustration for nearby residents. She has also focused on identifying the steps in the process that delay people going indoors, or housing from being built.

What occurred at the encampment on Cahuenga was effective, providers say, because they had hotel rooms rented and ready for people to occupy.

“The pace at which Inside Safe can bring people indoors from encampments across the city will largely depend on the availability of beds,” said Cheri Todoroff, executive director of Los Angeles County’s Homeless Initiative. “What the city is doing that will likely be a game changer is accelerating housing placements, both in interim and permanent housing.”

More buildings master-leased — a process in which the city would take control of entire hotels or motels — means more people off the streets. But it remains to be seen whether the city can lease enough beds to meaningfully reduce or eliminate large encampments across Los Angeles.

Bass has made clear she wants to work closely with Todoroff’s bosses — the five Los Angeles County supervisors — appearing before them Tuesday to talk about the need for better partnership between the bureaucracies. The county does much of the funding and contracting of the outreach work taking place on city streets.

The county will be expanding some of these different outreach teams in the coming year, which will bolster the plans that Bass and council offices have to address large encampments across the city.

Still, providers say the work of gaining a homeless person’s trust to persuade them to move off the street is easier when a bed is available along with transportation to it. Case in point: A city Dash bus idled in position Wednesday, poised to ferry people to a motel once they were ready and had packed the two bags they were allowed to bring.

As people moved out of their makeshift structures, sanitation workers quickly moved in to throw away large items and dispose of what was left behind. Homeless people have often complained that this work by the Sanitation Department causes them to lose personal items and important documents.

Bass appeared cognizant of this broader challenge Wednesday as she highlighted how this effort on Cahuenga followed the approach that had been developed at large encampment cleanups across the city in 2021. She made clear that these operations weren’t being led by law enforcement and that she didn’t want to see homeless people ticketed or punished for living on the street.

“We know that there are specific motels where people can go to,” she said of the Hollywood cleanup and effort to move people indoors. “In the best of all worlds, what I would like to see is us to be able to do this citywide. But we’re not at that capacity just now. It’s going to take us a minute to ramp up. I think this is day nine or day 10 of me being mayor.”

Bass was flanked by outreach workers and social services providers at Wednesday’s news conference, where she signed the executive order. Among other things, it directs city officials to compile a report by the end of March that will “create a unit acquisition strategy, including master leasing for both interim and permanent housing options.”

The first goal, she sets out in the document, is to “decrease the number and size of encampments across the city.”

Bass’ emergency declaration, which the City Council authorized, gives her a lot more flexibility to quickly commit city funds toward leasing motel and hotel rooms. City officials said Bass currently has about $20 million at her disposal that could be put toward leasing beds quickly.

More funds could be made available to her, but that would require more input from the council.

Bass credited Va Lecia Adams Kellum, chief executive of St. Joseph Center in Venice, with helping spearhead some of this work.

Last year, Adams Kellum’s organization coordinated the outreach and renting of hotel rooms along Ocean Front Walk in Venice, where a massive encampment had sprung up, frustrating local residents and business owners.

The city gave her organization about $5 million to do that work, and more than half of the funds went to renting motels for more than 200 people. Much of the rest went toward staff to supervise the outreach and operations of the hotels.

That operation was delayed in part because Adams Kellum’s team had to wait for the City Council to sign off on the money being spent, recalled former Councilmember Mike Bonin, who represented the area and helped organize this work.

“There was a really drawn-out process then,” Bonin said. “Karen has the opportunity to say ‘let’s get moving’ and people will move. It’s a big difference from the usual legislative process.”

Both Bonin and Adams Kellum said the success of that work in Venice hinged on having beds available for people to quickly move into.

In an interview, Adams Kellum, who is on Bass’ transition advisory team, said that of the 213 people moved off Ocean Front Walk, 109 have found permanent housing. She added that it’s much easier to get people paired with a housing subsidy and into permanent housing if they’re indoors already.

“She knows housing has to be a part of it,” Adams Kellum said of Bass and her team’s work. “I know she’s lining that up because she knows you can’t go into an encampment sincerely without [the motel bed] in hand.”

Back on Cahuenga, Ryan waited for her case manager to arrive with her driver’s license — a delivery that continued to be delayed. Some of Ryan’s friends planned to stay on the street — uninterested in the offers of a hotel room. She had also seen some people lose items they cared about during the cleanup Tuesday.

Click here to read the full story in the LA Times

Karen Bass Moves Ahead of Rick Caruso in L.A. Mayor’s Race

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass overtook businessman Rick Caruso in the seesaw battle to be mayor of Los Angeles, with Friday’s tally putting the veteran lawmaker 4,384 votes ahead of the real estate developer in a contest that will not be settled until next week at the earliest.

The new totals from county election officials put Bass ahead by a fraction, 50.38% to 49.62%, for the first time since Caruso took a slim advantage in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Bass has now bested Caruso in the last two updates from the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office.

Going into Friday, Caruso held a tiny lead of one-half percentage point, or 2,695 votes. The fourth lead change in less than 72 hours tended to affirm pre-election predictions that a winner might not be known for a week or more after last Tuesday’s election day. The L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office promises another updated count Saturday.

With only about 30,000 votes added to the mayoral tote board Friday, Caruso’s supporters cautioned against reading too much into the new totals. But Bass partisans sounded buoyant that despite the modest overall numbers, their candidate had taken 60% of the votes revealed since Thursday.

Independent analysts suggest that a minimum of 300,000 ballots remain to be counted, the vast majority of them mail-ins. Bass pulled from behind in the vote count in the June primary on the strength of mail-in votes, and the new totals this week — with the congresswoman gaining three-fifths of the total 82,510 new votes over two days — suggested a possible repeat of that pattern.

“Give me one more [vote batch] like these last two and it will officially be a trend,” said Paul Mitchell, an expert in voting patterns who has been closely tracking the L.A. election. “It becomes increasingly hard for Caruso to claw back, and makes it hard to come up with any intellectually credible justification of why these ballots should start changing course.”

The new frontrunner’s campaign manager, Jenny Dellwood, said the Bass team “continues to feel great about the numbers, and Karen is optimistic and ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work.”

In the race for L.A. county supervisor in the 3rd District, West Hollywood City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath also pushed into a narrow lead with the new vote totals Friday. Her 670-vote advantage over State Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), if it holds, would keep the five-member board all female.

“I’m so grateful to the voters of District 3 for their confidence and support,” Horvath said in a statement. “We are confident that when every vote is counted and certified, we will win this race and bring much needed change to L.A. County.”

In another high-profile county race, Sheriff Alex Villanueva continued to lag far behind challenger Robert Luna, leaving his chance of winning a second term in considerable doubt. The latest batch of ballots had Luna up more than 235,000 votes.

The two would-be mayors have presented a study in contrasts since voting concluded Tuesday: Bass hunkering down with her family and staff members and Caruso spending at least some of his day presenting himself to Angelenos as a kind of mayor-in-waiting.

On Wednesday, the 63-year-old mall developer folded into a pastrami sandwich at Langer’s Deli west of downtown. On Friday, he dropped in on a Veterans Day parade, greeting the crowd with his golden retriever Hudson and sharing a brief greeting with Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was riding in the parade and has one month left in office.

Bass, who would be the first female mayor in L.A.’s nearly 250-year history, hasn’t been seen by the press since her election night speech and has been relatively silent compared with her opponent. The veteran House member “has been catching up on her personal life and spending time with family,” said spokesperson Sarah Leonard Sheahan. “Today she held a luncheon for her staff to express her appreciation.”

On Friday, hours before the latest tally was released, Caruso stood on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, waving to veterans taking part in parade and posing for photos with fans who approached the mayoral candidate.

“This is exactly what we were expecting,” Caruso said. “We’re gonna go up and down as these ballots get counted. … We’re going to be on a roller coaster for a while. But I’m very optimistic.”

Caruso’s interview with reporters was interrupted when Garcetti passed by, wearing his Navy Reserve uniform and sitting atop the back of a convertible that rolled down Laurel Canyon.

“Look who it is!” Caruso said, walking over to shake the mayor’s hand.

The two had earlier exchanged texts and, after shaking hands on the parade route, agreed to soon connect on the phone. Garcetti said he had also been in touch with Bass and that his staff and city department heads had begun to work with both camps to smooth the way for a transition that will be completed with the swearing in of a new mayor on Dec. 12.

Meanwhile in other races, city attorney candidate Hydee Feldstein Soto continued to lead attorney Faisal Gill. Feldstein Soto has 57.7% of the vote, to Gill’s 42.2%, according to Friday’s results.

In the City Council race for a Glassell Park to Hollywood seat, labor organizer Hugo Soto-Martinez maintained his edge over Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, who is vying for a third term. Soto-Martinez leads 53.3% to O’Farrell’s 46.7%.

On the Westside, Traci Park maintained a 9-percentage-point lead over attorney Erin Darling in the race to succeed City Councilmember Mike Bonin.

In the race to replace Councilmember Paul Koretz for a Fairfax to Bel-Air seat, political aide Katy Young Yaroslavsky continued to lead attorney Sam Yebri, 57% to 42.9%.

Attorney Tim McOsker also maintained a significant lead over neighborhood council member Danielle Sandoval, with McOsker at 65.4% and Sandoval at 34.6%.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

San Francisco Mayor Apologizes for Saying ‘A Lot Of’ Drug Dealers are Honduran

San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued an apology Thursday for comments she made that linked Honduran immigrants to drug dealing in the city, which drew condemnation from Bay Area Latino organizations and community members.

In clips from the hourlong interview at an Oct. 5 live event with public radio station KQED-FM that began to circulate on social media this week, Breed said a large number of those arrested for dealing fentanyl are Honduran.

“There are unfortunately a lot of people who come from a particular country — come from Honduras — and a lot of the people who are dealing drugs happen to be of that ethnicity,” she said, pushing back against criticism that law enforcement was racially profiling Latinos in the Tenderloin neighborhood.

“It’s nothing ‘racial profile’ about this,” Breed said. “We all know it. It’s the reality, it’s what you see, it’s what’s out there.”

In her written apology, Breed said that while trying to explain the situation in the Tenderloin, she “failed to accurately and comprehensively discuss what is an incredibly complex situation in our City and in Central America.”

“We do have significant challenges with drug dealing in the Tenderloin, and those challenges are impacting families that live there, including immigrant Latino families and residents who are living in fear,” Breed said. “As a proud Sanctuary City, we have an obligation to provide a safe space for our immigrant families to live and thrive. That includes ending open-air drug markets and hold drug dealers, regardless of ethnicity, accountable.”

During the KQED event, Breed was asked about how officials would address drug use and the estimated 1,700 overdose deaths in the city since 2020.

The videos circulated as Latino leaders and community members were still dealing with the shock of Los Angeles city leaders’ racist comments toward Black and Indigenous people, which were brought to light in leaked recordings a week earlier.

“The comments in L.A. hurt people in the Bay Area, also,” said Lariza Dugan-Cuadra, executive director of San Francisco nonprofit Central American Resource Center of Northern California. “And then to have this thing resurface with the mayor, it kind of added insult to injury with how our community is feeling in California overall.”

Dugan-Cuadra was among the Latino leaders who sat down with Breed this week to push for an apology and to convey the community’s disappointment and hurt.

She was concerned that Breed’s comments fed the xenophobic narrative of viewing immigrant communities as criminals, drawing parallels to former President Trump’s rhetoric. Dugan-Cuadra instead asked Breed to focus on solutions and preventive measures that address drug dealing and root causes of migration to the U.S. — such as poverty — rather than ramp up criminal law enforcement.

Breed said last month that she would be “less tolerant of all the bulls— that has destroyed our city.” She and Dist. Atty. Brooke Jenkins, Breed’s pick to succeed Chesa Boudin after he was recalled, have committed to a more aggressive approach of policing and prosecuting drug dealing and property crimes.

“I think any young person with migratory status whose only option to survive is existing in an underground economy is a reflection of our society,” Dugan-Cuadra said. “Young people should have more opportunities to fulfill their dreams, and shouldn’t be excluded and criminalized.”

Dugan-Cuadra also invited Breed to visit Honduras and Central America, so she can better understand the violent, impoverished conditions Hondurans and others are fleeing from. She said the mayor has been responsive and receptive.

Breed’s apology also included a pledge to support Dugan-Cuadra’s organization, CARECEN SF, which is opening a larger office near the Tenderloin. The nonprofit provides resources for Latino and immigrant families, including legal aid and representation in immigration and criminal courts.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Caruso Would Face Test In Bid For Mayor

Developer has deep pockets and savvy, but he’d be up against established rivals.

Is Rick Caruso really in this time?

If so, Los Angeles will be in for an adventure in the race to succeed Eric Garcetti as mayor in a city struggling with entrenched social and economic challenges.

A white billionaire developer, generous philanthropist and owner of a nine-bedroom yacht that rents for $550,000 a week would be taking on traditional candidates in a city with massive income inequality and a population dominated by people of color.

Race, class, crime, homelessness and housing will be center stage.

I wouldn’t bet on Caruso joining the race just yet. When I asked if he’d like to talk about his plan on homelessness, he said he’s going to spend some time with his family while making a final decision on whether to run.

But he looks more serious this time than he has in past flirtations with public office. He’s got a team in place, as he has in the past, but the former Republican has also changed his registration from “no party preference” to Democrat in a city whose registered voters skew heavily D.

In a Twitter post that looked like the launch of his candidacy, Caruso said he would “prioritize the safety of our families,” create jobs rather than “chase them away,” and address homelessness as “an unprecedented, city-threatening crisis, with both compassion and firmness that ensures that those who are following the rules are not disadvantaged by those who refuse to do so.”

And then there’s his statement denouncing those in power:

“No one believes that the same group of politicians who allowed our city to become this unsafe, corrupt and cruel can solve any of the problems we face,” Caruso said.

So let’s say Caruso jumps in. With a bottomless campaign war chest, would he be in contention with the presumed front-runner, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass? Would he knock Councilmen Kevin de León and Joe Buscaino out of contention, along with City Atty. Mike Feuer and other contenders?

Not necessarily.

In denouncing local leaders, Caruso seems to be taking a page out of the Richard Riordan playbook. Riordan, a wealthy businessman who was elected to two terms as mayor beginning in 1993, ran on the premise that hapless city officials weren’t up to a job only a successful businessman could do.

But much has changed since then. The city was whiter at the time, the number of Republicans was far greater, the riots that followed the Rodney King beating by police worked in favor of the law-and-order candidate, and Riordan didn’t have as strong a slate of viable political opponents as Caruso would.

“The city has changed dramatically, not only demographically but also politically,” said Jaime Regalado, former director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles. “It has many more Latinos, many more Asian Pacific Islanders and many more young liberals.”

Mayoral elections in Los Angeles are nonpartisan, but if Caruso goes head to head with Bass, Regalado said, Bass would have the advantage of being a true Democrat rather than one who conveniently just joined the club. Caruso has thrown money at politicians on both sides of the aisle for years, but Bass’ longtime record as a progressive who “stood tall against [President] Trump” will serve her well, in Regalado’s opinion.

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a longtime public affairs commentator who now co-hosts the “Inside Golden State Politics” podcast, thinks Caruso’s path to City Hall could be loaded with potholes. “The arithmetic for him is very iffy,” she said.

As she adds it up, Caruso would need strong support from independent voters, but given where he seems to be positioning himself on homelessness and crime, he’d be competing with Buscaino and perhaps Feuer, in her opinion.

Making headway on homelessness, Regalado said, means forming alliances with City Council members rather than brushing them aside, as Riordan sometimes did, with mixed results. That’s especially true given the shared power and limited mayoral authority, and the fact that many services are under county rather than city authority.

“If he tries to be Riordan, he’s in big trouble,” Regalado said.

But Caruso is, in some ways, a skilled politician and schmoozer who understands the value of power, money and access despite never having run for office. And he has no doubt thought all of this through, along with formulating a response to critics who are guaranteed to call him out as a luxury hotel and housing developer in a region with a housing affordability crisis, or for his role on the USC Board of Trustees during a series of scandals.

You can expect Caruso to argue that although he was a Trojan power player while the school made headlines for a shocking string of administrative failures amid abuses by a gynecologist and by the medical school dean — along with various athletic department embarrassments — he was the one who led a call for institutional reforms.

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