Los Angeles on Tuesday begins a far-reaching overhaul of its city government, voting for a new mayor and controller, and voting as well for city attorney and to fill more than half the City Council and nearly half the school board and Community College District board of trustees. Nonpartisan city and school elections differ from California legislative and congressional elections, in which runoffs between the two highest vote-getters are now guaranteed. In Tuesday's election, a candidate can avoid a runoff by winning more than 50% of the vote. That's unlikely, though, in many of the close races, including for mayor. For those races in which no candidate receives more than 50%, there will be a runoff on May 21. The Times recommends:
Mayor: Eric Garcetti. Garcetti's record of achievement as a councilman and as City Council president and his understanding of the workings of City Hall give him a clear edge over his competitors. Wendy Greuel is smart and ambitious, but her accomplishments in one term as controller have been unremarkable, and the other candidates likewise fall short.
City attorney: Mike Feuer. Los Angeles elects its city attorney because the job requires more than just prosecuting misdemeanors or advising city officials. Feuer is the one candidate in the race who seems to understand that and is prepared to recapture what recent city attorneys have lost — the power and ability to improve the quality of life in Los Angeles.
Controller: Ron Galperin. The city needs a top official, outside the mayor's office or the City Council, prepared to critique government — both its decisions and its structure — when it is inefficient. Galperin has already been doing the job as a commissioner, and he is the best-positioned candidate in this race to take on a bigger role.
City Council District 1: Jose Gardea. Between Gardea and top rival Gil Cedillo, Gardea is the one more likely to continue adding affordable housing while attracting wisely placed retail, and the one more likely to make his decisions based on this northeast and central Los Angeles district's needs and independent of outside interest groups.
City Council District 3: Bob Blumenfield. Blumenfield's rivals in this southwestern San Fernando Valley district argue that he is the worst choice because he has presided over the Assembly budget from the darkest days of cuts to the more stable situation of today. In fact, that's much of what makes him the best choice.
City Council District 5: Paul Koretz. Challenger Mark Matthews Herd fails to make a convincing case as to why he would be better for the sprawling Westside and San Fernando Valley district and the city than Koretz.
City Council District 7: Felipe Fuentes. In a field of unqualified or otherwise unimpressive candidates in this north San Fernando Valley district, Fuentes is the one best equipped to represent his district and serve its needs.
City Council District 9: David Roberts. The other candidates tend to theorize about what they might do in this South Los Angeles district. As a City Hall staffer, Roberts has done it and has a program for doing more.
City Council District 11: Mike Bonin. This Westside district of wealthy homeowners and the homeless, progressive thinking and jammed commuter traffic, is best served by someone like Bonin, who has good instincts for balancing constituents' needs and interests.
City Council District 13: Mitch O'Farrell. As a council staffer, O'Farrell has demonstrated what he considers good constituent service. Most of his rivals offer little evidence to show they could put their words into action.
City Council District 15: Joe Buscaino. Buscaino has been at his job for a little over a year. His single opponent makes no case for changing course.
Board of Education District 2: Monica Garcia. We don't love what Garcia has done as school board president, but she has been a voice for reform and is the most likely to continue on the path carved by L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy.
Board of Education District 4: Kate Anderson. Anderson is a reform-minded candidate, but she also articulates strong positions on education that don't always hew to the straight reform agenda.
Board of Education District 6: Monica Ratliff. Ratliff appears to be that most rare type of school board candidate — one who would think her positions through carefully and debate with an open mind.
Community College District trustee seat 2: Mike Eng. Eng has substantial government experience and would be a quick study for this at-large board.
Community College District trustee seat 4: Jozef Essavi. Essavi focuses on the misuse of construction bond funds, high dropout rates and lack of course offerings.
Community College District trustee seat 6: Tom Oliver. Oliver is the most articulate and informed challenger to incumbent Nancy Pearlman, who has not been effective.
Proposition A (permanent half-cent sales tax increase): No. Voters should consider raising revenue only after officials make clear how the money would be used and why it is needed.
Charter Amendment B (fire and police pension plan): Yes. This measure would allow police officers who transfer out of the General Services Department and its pension fund and into the Los Angeles Police Department to buy their way, at their own expense, into the public safety employees' pension fund.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times