By Robert Greene
6:45 AM PST, January 21, 2013
As part of our process to sort through the mayoral candidates and the issues that will face Los Angeles and the next mayor when he or she takes office July 1, The Times' editorial page presents short video interviews with five of the candidates. You can view them here.
Eight candidates have qualified for the March 5 mayoral ballot, and the editorial board met with and interviewed each of them. But five stand apart as more serious candidates. How did we determine they were more serious? The same way everyone else does: We listen to their campaign messages, we take note of their grass-roots support, we gauge their fundraising and assess not merely how viable their campaigns are but how prepared they are to serve. It’s interesting to note that in some of the dozens of candidate forums conducted over the last year, three candidates were invited; in a majority of them, four candidates; and in a few, five. We opted for five, and present videos from Jan Perry, Emanuel Alberto Pleitez, Eric Garcetti, Wendy J. Greuel and Kevin James.
Emanuel Alberto? Wendy J.? Yes, we use the names as they will appear on the ballot, not necessarily as you see them in campaign materials or news stories. Likewise, we present the videos in their ballot order.VIDEO: Interviews with L.A.'s mayoral candidates
They are not, strictly speaking, interviews, but statements the candidates made in response to two questions we put to them several days immediately before (or, in one case, after) they each came to speak with The Times' editorial board. The questions: (1) Describe a problem you have solved in your career that pitted you against your usual principles or your usual allies and how it demonstrates that would make you excel as mayor; and (2) describe the Los Angeles we should expect to see with you as mayor, how it is different from the Los Angeles of today – and how you expect to accomplish it given the difficulties that prior administrations have had.
If they got the questions beforehand, aren’t the answers rehearsed? Certainly. This feature should not be taken by voters as the primary tool they use to meet these candidates and learn their positions. It is one of many, along with public forums and debates, news stories, position papers, endorsements and all the other resources voters use to make up their minds.
Times endorsement decisions also are based on that variety of resources, including the closed door meetings we had with each candidate. We keep those interviews off the record in order to facilitate the most candid conversations. By extension, our later deliberations on whom to endorse take place, as would be expected, behind closed doors.
But there is an interesting tension between off-the-record discussions and the desire to share as much as possible with our readers. Occasionally, in the past, we have recorded our discussions with candidates and invited readers to listen in, as we did a year ago with the special election to fill a vacancy on the City Council. That process has its advantages as well as its drawbacks, and it’s something we may do again.
In this mayoral primary, though, we’re sticking with closed meetings. These videos are one attempt to share one small part of the process with voters and readers, who can make their own assessments of how well the candidates responded. And, incidentally, which candidate’s face and voice they wouldn’t mind seeing and hearing over the course of the next four years.
Members of the editorial board are an opinionated bunch and each of us will have our own thoughts about how well the candidates did in these videos, as well as in debates and elsewhere, and later in the campaign season some of us may share them with readers on this blog. For now, though, please watch, listen and share what you think.
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