When voters passed Charter Amendments 1 and 2, moving Los Angeles' election dates to even-numbered years, they also gave city officials a gift: an extra 18 months in office. To align local contests with state and federal elections starting in 2020, the City Council members elected Tuesday (and whoever wins the Council District 4 runoff May 19) will serve 5 1/2 years in office, instead of the standard four-year term. Citywide officeholders and council members elected two years from now will also get a one-time supersized term.
Five and a half years is a long time, giving elected officials additional breathing room before they have to resume fundraising and campaigning. They should put those windfall months to good use, to push policies and make decisions that may be politically difficult or unpopular with certain groups but that are important for the future of the city.
Just in the next few months, officials will consider raising water rates to help speed up replacement of old, crumbling water pipes. It's a decision that is never popular with ratepayers, and it will be even harder this time because Angelenos are already paying more for water during the drought. But with no election in the immediate future, maybe they'll have the gumption to act.
They will also consider a new ordinance that could limit the number of bright, blinking digital billboards by restricting them to specific entertainment districts — a decision complicated by heavy lobbying from the sign industry, which hopes the restrictions will be loosened. The industry collectively contributed more than $100,000 toward candidates and measures on the March ballot.
City Council members will almost certainly vote to raise the minimum wage. The only question is whether they'll go for Mayor Eric Garcetti's $13.25 proposal or for the $15.25 being championed by organized labor, which also spent well over $100,000 on the March election.
There are other financial issues on the horizon. How is the city, which has historically set aside no money to fix broken sidewalks, going to pay for an expected multimillion-dollar sidewalk settlement with disabled people? City officials passed a budget last year assuming no raises for employees and an agreement to move forward on pension reform, but will they stick to that commitment as labor negotiations drag on with civilian workers and police officers?
Again and again, city officials will have to weigh what's good for their constituents, for the city and, no doubt, for their donors. With the last election in the rearview mirror and the next one even further into the future than usual, they should use their extra 18 months to make tough decisions on behalf of the people they're elected to serve.