Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

Category: Editorial Follow-ups

Ballot comeuppance for Judge Lynn Olson?

Lynn Olson

This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

Oh, the irony. Is it the hammer of justice? The gavel of comeuppance? Or just another judicial election?

It may be wrong to take satisfaction in the fact that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lynn Dianne Olson drew a rare challenge in the June 5 election (read last week's news story by Metropolitan News-Enterprise reporter Kenneth Ofgang). But if taking satisfaction is wrong, then at least for now I don't want to be right.

Perhaps you remember Olson. She was the operator of Manhattan Bread and Bagel in Manhattan Beach when, six years ago, she filed an election challenge against Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs. And won. Janavs, an experienced and well-regarded jurist, was forcibly retired to make way for Olson, who had not practiced law in years and was patently unqualified to take the bench (she drew a "not qualified" rating from the Los Angeles County Bar Assn., and a thumbs-down from the Los Angeles Times editorial page; Janavs was rated "exceptionally well qualified").

Of all the 140 or so incumbent judges who were standing for reelection, why would Olson pick Janavs? Olson explained later that it was because Janavs was a Republican, but there were lots of Republicans to challenge. Janavs was beatable, probably because voters breezing over a ballot and candidate names they don't know are more likely to pick an easy name like "Lynn Olson" over a tough-to-pronounce, foreign-sounding one (it's Latvian) like "Dzintra Janavs."

In California, most trial judges are appointed by the governor, but every two years a few candidates are elected to fill vacancies -- or challenge sitting judges at the ballot box. Challenges are rare. Successful challenges are rarer. And unlike with other political offices, in which voters should have a free hand to oust incumbents for any reason or no reason at all, it's a bad practice to boot out competent sitting judges. Why? Because we want them to remain sufficiently independent in their rulings, and not feel that they have to make popular decisions or to hook up with a political party, fundraiser or special interest just to keep their jobs.

Most judges go unchallenged when they are up for reelection, and their names don't even appear on the ballot. They automatically win a new six-year term.

So Olson ousted Janavs (although then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger almost immediately reappointed her). And now, the first time Olson is up for reelection, she has been challenged. No automatic re-up for her.

The challenger? Perennial candidate Douglas Weitzman. Olson has the edge in campaign and fundraising know-how, but still -- instead of cruising to automatic victory, she will have to campaign and raise money to keep her job.

What's this called? Payback? Turnabout? The hunter becoming the hunted? Divine justice?

Or just a judicial election.

[For the record, 3:12 p.m. Feb. 14: The original version of this post misspelled the word comeuppance in the headline.]


L.A.'s bike lane blooper

L.A. DWP's gold-plated jobs

Carmen 'I am a liar' Trutanich

--Robert Greene

Photo: No credit. From a 2006 election flier.


What California got for holding out for a better foreclosure deal

Kamala Harris announces foreclosure settlement details for California
By temporarily holding out from the settlement talks between five major banks and other state attorneys general, California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris says she was able to obtain a significantly better deal for the state's homeowners and borrowers. In particular, she pointed to an agreement by the five banks -- Wells Fargo & Co., Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Ally Financial -- to guarantee at least $12 billion in relief to state borrowers over the coming three years, and to make that commitment enforceable in state court. And instead of waiving all claims related to loan origination, Harris said, the state's unique agreement with the banks preserves its ability to sue them for discriminatory and fraudulent lending practices.

Give Harris credit for all those things because they're helpful to Californians. But the more important part of the deal is that it gets the ball rolling on a new, more effective type of mortgage modification that could help far more borrowers than the billions that have been guaranteed.

The proposed national settlement grew out of a joint investigation by all 50 state attorneys general into "robo-signing," the banks' practice of giving judges in foreclosure cases documents that had been signed without anyone reviewing them. Robo-signing was mainly an issue in states that required lenders to go to court to foreclose on a home, and California does not. But the investigation uncovered many other abuses in the way the banks serviced the loans -- for example, the "dual tracking" that led one arm of a bank to foreclose on a house while another arm was negotiating a loan modification with the homeowner.

The national settlement, which still must be approved by a federal judge, calls for the five banks to provide more than $20 billion worth of relief to borrowers, including refinancing of underwater homes, loan modifications that write off some of the borrower's debt and support for "short sales" that enable borrowers to sell homes that are worth less than the balance of their mortgage. It also requires that $5 billion in penalties be paid mainly to state agencies and to borrowers who've already been foreclosed on.

About 1 million financially troubled homeowners across the country would be helped through mortgage modifications, short sales and other forms of relief. But about 6 million U.S. homeowners are in some stage of default, and about 2 million enter the foreclosure process every month. Millions of additional homeowners owe more than their homes are worth, putting them at risk of defaulting if they run into financial trouble. So as large as the settlement is, the problem is considerably larger.

That's why it's critical for banks to step up efforts to identify and help troubled borrowers whom they could rescue with a modified loan and lose less money than they would on a foreclosure. The settlement pushes them to do so, which is what makes it so important. First, it would require banks to meet new standards for how they respond to borrowers who fall behind on their payments, ensuring that every borrower is considered for a modification before foreclosure proceedings are started. And second, it would provide a template for modifications that write off a portion of a borrower's debt -- a technique that's proved to be more effective (because fewer borrowers re-default) and less costly than foreclosing, yet one that banks have eschewed because of the short-term cost and the potential for encouraging more defaults. Once the industry sees how well the modifications work, more lenders will adopt them, housing advocates hope. The relief would then spread far beyond the million borrowers covered by the settlement.

Harris' agreement with the banks gives them more incentive (or rather, less disincentive) to write down mortgages in communities with the highest foreclosure rates and greatest losses in property value. According to Brian Nelson, a special assistant attorney general, it also allows her office to sue any of the five banks if she finds evidence of discrimination in their lending -- for example, if they sold ethnic minorities costlier mortgages than they offered other borrowers. In addition, Nelson said, the agreement lets Harris sue the banks if she finds evidence that they defrauded borrowers, such as by willfully misrepresenting the terms of a loan. The latter claims only apply to loans made since July 2009, and banks would be liable only for the actual harm suffered by the borrowers.

Again, those are potentially helpful. We won't know how helpful, though, unless and until Harris' office actually brings cases. Besides, with the clock running on the state's four-year statute of limitations, and with the most predatory forms of subprime and exotic loans coming from lenders other than these five banks, it seems unlikely that Harris will be able to haul in many fish with these nets.


A foreclosure deal worth taking

Prop. 8 ruling: the legal path ahead

McManus: Those mudslinging Republicans

-- Jon Healey

Photo: Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris announces the details of California's settlement of mortgage-related claims against five major banks. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Redistricting: Watts new?

Maps-bWhat's the opposite of "I told you so"? Because whatever it is, I need to say it about the draft map proposals released Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission. Blogging on the recently concluded special election in Council District 15, I said there was just no way that Watts was ever going to be severed from the distant harbor.

But except for gaining or losing a few blocks at the far northern end, where Watts joins South Los Angeles and the central city, Council District 15 doesn't change. It can't, and it won't, because it has nowhere else to go. It's fenced in by the harbor on the south and the very strange shape of the city boundaries from there northward. Unless more territory is annexed to or detached from Los Angeles, this district will look pretty much the same in 50 years as it does today.

Never mind. The proposed map moves Watts out of the 15th and makes it part of a Council District 9, which traditionally takes in most of downtown but now would go only as far north as Olympic Boulevard.

Is that good or bad? It's different, and it could be good, although I'd be interested to know what Watts residents think. I suspect that many of them might like to finally be severed from San Pedro, the harbor community that always controls the election of the 15th District council member because it's where most of the money and most of the votes reside.

Every council member from that district, going back at least to World War II, has been a San Pedro resident. And it must be extraordinarily hard for the District 15 members not to promote the interests of their neighborhood and its very distinct demographic -- families with roots in fishing, shipping, loading, unloading and moving freight, largely white with a strong Italian, Croatian and Greek ethnic identity -- as opposed to Watts, with its distinct history and largely African American and Latino immigrant demographic, as well as environmental degradation, dense public housing problems and persistent gang crime.

Of course, not every community can have its own district. Communities must be joined with others that are like them -- or very unlike them. So would Watts now instead be pushed around by wealthy and gentrified downtown?

Perhaps not. The Bunker Hill and Flower Street office towers would be excluded, as would most of the 1920s bank buildings that are now condos and apartments. A lot of the conversation is going to focus on how the northern two-thirds of downtown would now be united as part of the same 14th District that includes Boyle Heights and far-away Eagle Rock. But the 9th District, in addition to Watts, would include downtown's Staples Center, L.A. Live and, assuming it gets built, Farmers Field football stadium.

So is this now the Anschutz Entertainment Group district, and will Watts now become the afterthought of AEG, instead of remaining the afterthought of the Port of Los Angeles? Could the AEG connection be better leveraged to help fund improvements in Watts?

Don't know the answer yet. Let's watch and listen.


Watts and Not-Watts

Planned remapping of  L.A. City Council districts draws fire

INTERACTIVE MAP: Current and proposed Los Angeles City Council districts

--Robert Greene

Mitt Romney doesn't want a tax break from Newt Gingrich

Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich go mano a mano

You wouldn't expect Mitt Romney, who made a fortune on Wall Street doing leveraged buyouts, to be the one channeling the common man's outrage at a flat-tax proposal. Yet there he was at Monday night's debate in Tampa, Fla., critiquing Newt Gingrich's version as being a gift to, well, the Mitt Romneys of the world.

He's got a point, although not the populist one he apparently was trying to make. Instead, Romney's observation highlights how imprecise tax policy is, and how risky it is to try to do social engineering through the tax code.

The exchange between Romney and Gingrich began after the former House speaker was asked his reaction to the brouhaha over Romney's tax returns. According to a Washington Post transcript, Gingrich replied by touting the changes he wants to make to the tax code:

I have in my tax proposal an alternative flat tax on the Hong Kong model, where you get to choose what you want, and our rate's 15%. So I'm prepared to describe my 15% flat tax as the Mitt Romney flat tax. I'd like to bring everybody else down to Mitt's rate, not try to bring him up to some other rate.

After getting Gingrich to confirm that he would eliminate taxes on capital gains (and, presumably, other forms of investment income), Romney recoiled and said, "Well, under that plan, I'd have paid no taxes in the last two years." He did so with a tone of surprise and disapprobation, by the way, not gratitude.

Gingrich tried to defend the prospect of cutting Romney's tax bill by several million dollars annually by invoking the thinking of a famous former Federal Reserve Board chairman. "It was Alan Greenspan who first said the best rate -- if you want to create jobs -- for capital gains is zero," Gingrich said. "My No. 1 goal is to create a maximum number of jobs to put the American people back to work. It's a straightforward argument."

Straightforward, but not necessarily correct. Although the research isn't conclusive, one recent study found that reducing the capital gains tax rate has little or no effect on the amount of money invested. And the benefits of the lower rate accrue overwhelmingly to the wealthy, mainly because they have spare resources to invest.

That's the problem, generally, with trying to use the tax code to influence people's behavior. One rule of thumb in tax policy is that taxing something induces people to do less of it. But there's no way to tell that Romney would invest more of his money if he didn't have to pay taxes on the dividends, interest and capital gains he collected. Would he choose to spend more time investing and less time pursuing some other income source, such as writing op-eds or taking a gig on Fox News? Would he invest more and spend less on himself, his family or his charities? Or would the Gingrich plan simply provide a windfall that Romney and his peers don't need?

That's the implication of Romney's reaction at Monday's debate. If Gingrich wants to end taxes on capital gains, dividends and interest, he'll have to offer a more persuasive argument than Greenspan's dicta. He'll need to come up with evidence that lowering rates creates jobs, or at least makes it easier for businesses to raise capital. And at this point, the data don't make a compelling case in his favor.


Mitt Romney, the 15% man

GOP debate: Killer Mitt vs. President Newt

Does Romney really believe the things he says about Gingrich?

-- Jon Healey

Photo: GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney, left, and Newt Gingrich. Credit: Charles Dharapa / Getty Images

Lawyers, labor, leaders rally for court funding

A campaign by attorneys and labor and business leaders to restore funding to state courts is beginning to get some attention, and it's about time. As The Times notes in an editorial Tuesday, courts stand apart because of their essential role in a society of law. Every part of California government has to take -- and has taken -- serious budget cuts, but the justice system must be first in line for restoration.

Instead, under Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal, courts are first in line for further "trigger" cuts if voters reject taxes and if other hoped-for revenue fails to materialize.

A committee known as the Open Courts Coalition, headed by Los Angeles attorney Paul R. Kiesel and Burlingame lawyer Niall McCarthy, is calling on the Legislature to keep the courthouse doors open in 58 Superior Courts around the state by keeping court funding intact and gradually restoring $350 million that has been cut in recent years. The group closed off a block of Grand Avenue between Disney Hall and the Stanley Mosk Courthouse on Jan. 18 for a rally to support the courts; speakers included former Gov. Gray Davis and former state Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno.

In a video prepared by the group and delivered to Sacramento lawmakers on Jan. 13, members of the legal, business and labor communities do their best to get the Legislature's attention. (See the video at the top of this post.)

"Courts strangely are much like fire and police," says Milo Brown, court employees business representative for AFSCME Council 36. "You never think about them, you're never concerned about them, until you need them."

"The work you do in the Legislature, what you bring to the governor to sign into law, is meaningless if there is no forum to enforce it," says California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.

Participation and cooperation of the Los Angeles Superior Court as well as statewide court leaders and representatives of court employees is significant, because they are sharply at odds on actual court expenditure and management issues. Here are some examples of participation by court supporters with a stake in keeping the courts functioning.

Cantil-Sakauye visited The Times' editorial board this month to discuss court funding and unhappiness expressed by many judges with centralized leadership -- the Judicial Council, which Cantil-Sakauye heads -- and with a costly case management computer system. Listen to her remarks here, here and here.

Stand Up for Justice


Gov. Brown's vision

Spare California's courts from cuts

Chief justice: 'We've become slower, thinner, smaller'

--Robert Greene

Photo: Court workers, attorneys, judges and business and labor leaders gather for a rally to restore court funding on Jan. 18 in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Lance Rubin / Open Courts Coalition.

First open seat for D.A. since 1964 [Coffeebreak Quiz answer]


It has been 48 years since the last open-seat election for district attorney. That's when Evelle J. Younger defeated Manley Bowler to succeed William B. McKesson in the 1964 race

At least eight candidates are competing in the June 5 primary to become Los Angeles County's next district attorney. There is no incumbent. When is the last time that happened?


That's today's Coffeebreak Quiz answer: It has been 48 years since the last open-seat election for district attorney. That's when Evelle J. Younger defeated Manley Bowler to succeed William B. McKesson in the 1964 race.

Every district attorney since then has gotten the job by either defeating the incumbent or being appointed by the county Board of Supervisors.

The current D.A., Steve Cooley, beat his boss, Gil Garcetti, in 2000 after Garcetti was battered in the media over the failure of the O.J. Simpson murder prosecution and public squabbling over the Rampart police scandal.

Garcetti took the job in 1992 from his boss, Ira Reiner, after Reiner dropped out in the final months of the campaign. Reiner also had trouble with high-profile cases, including the McMartin Preschool child-molestation case and the prosecution of four police officers in the beating of Rodney King. Reiner had the job beginning in 1984, when he defeated Robert Philibosian, who in turn had been appointed by the Board of Supervisors in 1981 to fill a vacancy.

The vacancy was created when Dist. Atty. John Van de Kamp was elected state attorney general. Van de Kamp became district attorney in 1975 on appointment by the Board of Supervisors to fill a vacancy created by the death of Joseph Busch. The supervisors appointed Busch to the office in 1971 to fill the vacancy left when Younger was elected attorney general. And of course, Younger had the job since 1964, after he won the election to succeed McKesson.

I once worked for Younger, many years after he left office, at a Los Angeles law firm that specialized in bankruptcy. Good training for reporting on Los Angeles city and county and California state government. And, come to think of it, for working at the Los Angeles Times.

Another man I worked for, Metropolitan News-Enterprise Editor and Co-Publisher Roger M. Grace, noted in a column that Younger was related to outlaw Cole Younger and others in the Jesse James gang. Grace has written extensively about the county's not-always-upstanding district attorneys, going back to the beginning.

The actual nomination period for this year's district attorney race begins Feb. 13, but eight candidates have declared that they are running and/or have been raising money for the race. They are Deputy Dist. Atty. Bobby Grace; Deputy Dist. Atty. Steve Ipsen; Assistant Head Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Jackson; Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey; Deputy Dist. Atty. Danette Meyers; Deputy Dist. Atty. Marcus Musante; Deputy Dist. Atty. Mario Trujillo; and Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich.

Check back with Opinion L.A. and the Los Angeles Times editorial page between now and election day for discussions of the candidates, the issues and our endorsement.


Name that questionable street banner

A banner month for the Golden Globes

Mayoral deputies Szabo, Frank shell out for candidates

-- Robert Greene

Photo: Evelle J. Younger, then a Los Angeles Municipal Court judge, looks on as his wife, Mildred Younger, emerges from a voting booth in 1954. Mildred Younger was running for state Senate, and would have become California's first female member of the Legislature had she won. Credit: Los Angeles Times

First wide-open race for D.A. since -- when? [Coffeebreak Quiz]

 At least six candidates are running for Los Angeles County district attorney in the June 5 primary to succedd retiring incumbent Steve Cooley

At least eight candidates, are running for Los Angeles County district attorney in the June 5 primary. Incumbent Steve Cooley is retiring and leaving an open seat, something that hasn't occurred in Los Angeles since -- well, since when?

That's today's Coffeebreak Quiz. When was the last time there was an open seat here for district attorney? In other words, no incumbent running to defend his (and they've all been men) job. Hint: It's been a really long time. Second hint: When we say "incumbent running to defend his job," we mean actively raising money, campaigning and having his name on the ballot -- but not necessarily keeping his campaign going up until election day.

The next D.A. will have a lot to deal with. He or she will need to not just make certain that felons are locked up, but may have to grapple as well with possible ballot measures dealing with the "three-strikes" law, the death penalty, medical marijuana, criminal-justice realignment and perhaps more. Look for a lot more from the Times editorial page on the race for district attorney.

And look in this space, at this time tomorrow, for the answer to the Coffeebreak Quiz.


Name that questionable street banner

A banner month for the Golden Globes

Mayoral deputies Szabo, Frank shell out for candidates

-- Robert Greene

Photo: Steve Cooley discusses his plans after winning his first race for Los Angeles County district attorney in 2000. Credit: Rick Meyer / Los Angeles Times

Juvenile offenders and lawmakers get another chance

Wally skalij California Youth Authority in Chino

We've said it before -- more than a dozen times. A child, even a bad one, should not be sent to prison for life without any chance at parole. It's a mark of societal fear and a lust for revenge. Some younger criminals may indeed be so incorrigible that they should never go free, but after he or she has been behind bars for a quarter of a century, a judge, and a parole board, should be able to consider release.

On Tuesday, the state Assembly is reconsidering SB 9, a bill to put California among the ranks of civilized societies by ending juvenile life without parole sentences. Finally, Assembly, put this matter to rest, pass the bill and send it to the governor.

Or, as we have said previously:

Jan. 16, 2008:

But of all the inequities of a dysfunctional penal system and harsh state laws, few can touch our predilection for discarding the lives of children who commit crimes before they're old enough to fully understand the consequences of their actions.

April 30, 2009:

Knowing they will live and die in prison, people who acted in the rashness of youth have no hope of returning to society, and therefore no reason to learn, or grow, or mature, or reform. But surely their example will dissuade other youth from crime? Nonsense. Kids who can't imagine next year can't imagine life in prison and can't be expected to make decisions based on something as obscure to them as parole.

Nov. 7, 2009:

Society can and should countenance a hopeless existence in prison for adult perpetrators. But not for juveniles. The U.S. is, for now, the only nation that has not banned life in prison without parole for juvenile offenders, and more than 2,000 are serving such terms behind bars.

Jan. 14, 2010:

The Times recognizes that some people who commit crimes before they have developed a resistance to peer pressure and an adult's brainpower, judgment and moral capacity may remain dangerous even after years of punishment and repentance. [State Sen. Leland] Yee's bill does not compel judges to grant parole when it's inappropriate. But it demonstrates California's faith that not every person whose life got off to a destructive start remains irredeemable. It offers a window of hope to imprisoned teenage offenders and gives them an incentive to learn, reform and aspire to a productive life.

May 18, 2010:

Thirty-seven states allow for such sentences, but [U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M.] Kennedy persuasively argued that a better indication of whether they are cruel or unusual — and thus a violation of the 8th Amendment — was the infrequency with which they are imposed. According to the court, only 129 prisoners are serving life without parole for non-homicide offenses committed as juveniles. (The number in California is two.) Kennedy also noted that "the United States is the only nation that imposes life without parole sentences on juvenile non-homicide offenders."

Aug. 19, 2010:

All this bill offers juveniles is the possibility of a future, a chance at a chance. An offender who has served 10 years could ask a judge to reexamine his case. Even if a judge does resentence the offender, he must serve 25 years total before he is eligible for a parole board hearing. And parole need not be granted.

Sept. 1, 2010:

By a 38-36 vote Monday night, the Assembly killed the Fair Sentencing for Youth Act authored by state Sen. Leland Yee (D- San Francisco), refusing to lead California out of the Dark Ages by banning sentences of life without the possibility of parole for juveniles. No other country sentences children to prison in this manner, and it is appalling, but not unexpected, that the Assembly could not muster enough political will to enact a law that in every way is beneficial to the public.

Dec. 8, 2010:

Not all juvenile criminals should receive parole, but if they turn themselves around as Kruzan did, they should be given the opportunity to put their cases before a court or parole board. That's why the Legislature should pass a bill that was reintroduced this week by state Sen. Leland Yee (D- San Francisco) after being rejected in August. The modest legislation would allow courts to review the cases of juveniles who were sentenced to life without parole after 10 years, possibly reducing their sentences to 25 years to life.

Aug. 11, 2011:

Assembly Democrats who have voted against earlier versions of this bill for fear of being labeled soft on crime should look at the facts. SB 9 would not automatically open prison doors for violent criminals. It would not eliminate life-without-parole sentences for any offender, adult or juvenile. It would merely give inmates serving life terms for crimes they committed before they turned 18 a limited opportunity to seek a 25-years-to-life sentence — and for the first time, a slim chance of parole before they die.

Nov. 9, 2011:

In fact, we in supposedly enlightened California come close to first place for cruel treatment of youth offenders. Year after year, California Democrats who live in fear of the county prosecutors' and victims' families' lobbies have voted down attempts to eliminate sentences of life in prison without parole for juveniles.

--Robert Greene

Photo: Juvenile offenders being moved at the California Youth Authority prison in Chino. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times.

Mayoral deputies Szabo, Frank shell out for candidates [Coffeebreak Quiz answer]


Friday's Coffeebreak Quiz no doubt got you excited about Tuesday's Council District 15 runoff. The question: Which top deputy to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa donated to candidate and LAPD officer Joe Buscaino, and which contributed to candidate and state Assemblyman Warren Furutani?

The answer: Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Szabo gave to Buscaino, as reported to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission. Deputy Mayor Larry Frank gave to Furutani, according to the same records.

Szabo was a spokesman for mayoral candidate Robert Hertzberg during the 2005 campaign that saw Villaraigosa elected. He later was a spokesman for then-Councilwoman Wendy Greuel (now city controller and a candidate for mayor) before joining Villaraigosa's officer as a deputy mayor for communications in 2006. He is now one of Villaraigosa's top aides, dealing with budget and communications matters.

Frank, an attorney, labor activist and community organizer, has been with the Villaraigosa administration from the beginning. His portfolio includes neighborhood councils.

Photos: Joe Buscaino, left, and Warren Furutani. Credit: Robert Greene / Los Angeles Times


Name that questionable street banner

A banner month for the Golden Globes

--Robert Greene

L.A. City Council District 15 recap


In advance of the Jan. 17 special election runoff for the 15th City Council district, and as part of our process for endorsing a candidate, the Los Angeles Times editorial board interviewed candidates Joe Buscaino and Warren Furutani and re-familiarized itself with the district and its challenges. That alone is not unusual; but this time we put a lot of the process on the Opinion L.A. blog so readers could join us. Here's a recap of our posts:

TeuberEndorsements and the Jan. 17 runoff: The Times endorsed Gordon Teuber in the Nov. 8 primary. It didn't do him much good; he came in sixth in a field of 11. Here's our endorsement process for the runoff and notice that the editorial board interviews will be on the record, recorded and shared with our readers.

Broadway-ManchesterAbout the district: Redistricting comes and goes, but the 15th District stays the same: San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway, Watts, and a smidgen of South L.A. Check out city maps of the district through the ages. Both candidates are Democrats (although Buscaino is a former Republican) and both were born in San Pedro (although Furutani has lived in Harbor Gateway for 20 years).

Buscaino FurutaniQuestions, and frustration: The editorial board questioned the candidates about how they planned to help balance the city budget while providing residents with the services they have become used to. What would they cut? What taxes would they raise? The answers were disappointing, as revealed in these audio clips and partial transcripts.

BallotsVoting now underway: The actual date of the election means less each year as more voters mark their ballots early and send them in by mail. That affects how campaign money is raised and spent. It's Dec. 20, a month before voting day, but voters are already doing their work.

Nov 9 1994 Warren Furutani AP Nick UtWhen Warren met Joe: More audio outtakes and partial transcripts, this time of each candidate's recollection about meeting the other at San Pedro High School in the 1990s, when Buscaino was student body president and Furutani was on the school board. Also, what the candidates think of each other.

Watts stairway with towersWatts and Not Watts: Three portions of the 15th District used to be independent cities, including Watts, in the northernmost part. This section has more than its share of public housing projects, street gangs and failed schools. The unnamed, or many-named, adjacent section to the west is plagued with forlorn brownfields. Both inland communities battle for recognition in this harbor-oriented district.

A Harbor Gateway welcome and a tagger's ominous responseHarbor Gateway, the city on a shoestring: The "shoestring" strip of Los Angeles, actually two distinct strips with a sort of knot in the middle, has an identity crisis -- many residents believe they live in adjacent Torrance or Gardena. The area has Superfund cleanup sites where artificial rubber and DDT used to be manufactured.

Harbor_City_optHarbor City, the city not on the harbor: Harbor City hangs between two worlds: The tony or at least comfortably middle class region of South Bay cities like Lomita next door to the west, and the gang-plagued parts of Los Angeles just to the north. Lake Machado is part of a network of polluted, but still vital, wetlands.

Conocophillips oct 6, 2011 luis sincoWilmington and the air that it breathes: The working-class, waterfront community of Wilmington must contend with refineries, oil wells, recycling centers and the Port of Los Angeles. They all provide desperately needed jobs -- and an environment so toxic that schools must install special air filters. It has become a center of the environmental justice movement.

BuscainoThe candidates on the Housing Authority: You can tell a lot about a candidate from the way he or she discusses a recent issue that has people up in arms. Are they right to be angry? What is the real nature of the problem? More audio of editorial board discussions with Buscaino and Furutani -- and more disappointment.

FurutaniHow to judge the winner: More audio outtakes, this time of the candidates discussing how their success or failure should be evaluated after the victor seeks reelection having served the 18 months of Janice Hahn's unfinished tenure.


BlocBuscaino and the council cop bloc: If elected, Buscaino would be one of four police officers (current, retired or reserve) serving on the 15-member council. What does that mean for Los Angeles -- if anything?


Villaraigosa wesson nov 8 2005 lawrence K hoThe Capitol contingent: If elected, Furutani would be one of six former state legislators serving on the 15-member council. What does that mean for Los Angeles -- if anything?


Busc-furuWho's donating to Buscaino, Furutani? Most of Buscaino's campaign donations have come from inside the 15th District, especially San Pedro. Most of Furutani's come from outside the district -- re-gifted from the campaign committees of fellow elected officials, or contributed by Asian Americans around the nation.

BastionsHow uncoordinated are the candidates? Labor unions are donating thousands of dollars to both candidates as independent expenditures. Buscaino's help comes from the Police Protective League and the leader of the DPW workers' union. Furutani has help from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, plus the county Democratic Party.

Maury Wills 2007 Robert Guather LAT Maurice Gardner Barry Bonds Charlie SteinerThat Maurice Wills? The Dodger great goes to bat for Buscaino. Plus other video offerings from the websites and Facebook pages of both campaigns.


-- Robert Greene

Photos: From top, credit: Robert Greene / Los Angeles Times; Fifth from top, ballots. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times; Sixth from top, Warren Furutani. Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press; 10th from top, Wilmington. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times. 13th from top, Dennis Zine and Bernard Parks. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times. 14th from top, Antonio Villaraigosa and Hal Wesson. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times. 17th from top: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times. All others, Robert Greene / Los Angeles Times



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About the Bloggers
The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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