I was chatting with Traci Park last April, moments before The CD11 Candidate's Forum at The Hotel Erwin, sponsored by The Westside Current and Circling the News, was about to begin. Traci was still taken aback by the final question asked by the two young women from The LA Times Editorial Board interviewing her for a potential endorsement. They wanted to know why on earth Traci thought she could get along with other members of The City Council.
No matter what one's politics might be, if you have ever had a conversation with Traci, you know this was a rather strange question because she is warm, a great listener, and makes sure to look a person in the eye when she is talking to them. Could it be that the Editorial Board had been given misleading information about Traci's background leading one to conclude, as Mike Bonin has, that if elected to the Council, Traci would immediately become its most reactionary member?
Needless to say, Traci did not get The Times endorsement, which, of course, is its prerogative. Erin Darling, the only candidate not to attend the aforementioned candidate forum, did. The Times Board clearly sparked Darling's legal advocacy for tenant's rights and the progressive ideology he shares with our polarizing, lame duck Councilman, who is Erin's most ardent supporter.
As if to prove my point, the Times Editorial went on to mock the six other candidates for wanting "more police patrolling the streets instead of sitting behind desks," insulting their support of "unworkable or inhumane policies to address homelessness" without providing any specifics. So much for being the paper of record.
Re-reading the Times endorsement of Darling all these months later, what stands out is its condescending description of Venice Beach as a place where "people in multimillion-dollar houses have complained bitterly about sprawling encampments." It's hard to tell if they are merely being snarky-cool, or implying that most of us are so selfish that we probably wouldn't even be appalled by what our city's woeful record taking care of the mentally ill and drug-addicted on Ocean Front Walk has done to Venice's status as an international tourist destination if we had deeper pockets and lived in the secluded canyons of Brentwood with Thomas Safran or Jeffrey Katzenberg.
The editorial goes on to criticize Traci for waging an unsuccessful fight to "stop a Ramada Inn from being turned into housing for unhoused people" without acknowledging that the paper never bothered to publish a single news story documenting how converting The Ramada into a destination for Project Roomkey came together under Bonin's auspice without any community input, tearing apart a decidedly residential neighborhood in the process.
The Time's lack of coverage creates a void that the Westside Current would like to humbly step up and do our best to try to fill in the gap with a creative, campaign-friendly way to elevate the discourse between the campaigns– hence, why we called you out by name in our appeal to Be Truthful. Be Civil. And Please Save The Political Culture of Our City While You're at It .
Here's our pitch to you Traci and Erin. The Westside Current and Circling the News will pose questions to both of you in a featured column.
We will ask a different question – with the expectation that each campaign will want to provide answers (in any way they feel is best – a few words, a short post on YouTube, call us and we will record the answer or have friends and supporters answering for you) the next day.
The questions will come from our readers. They will also come from our newsroom and --we'll also take questions from the campaigns. That would be fun and different – and most importantly, it will help clarify for voters what you have in common and where you differ. Our hope is that asking questions neither campaign will know in advance will allow for spontaneity, civility, and connectivity each weekday morning that is sadly lacking in a world without a viable, digital town square.
What do you think? Worth a shot? You don't even have to commit. We'll ask the questions. See what happens. Let us know. Sooner the better. Standing by.
Editor's note: You can email all questions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.