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Still looking for that next big backer

AS IF YOU ASKED

If you’ve gone a day without hearing or reading some reference to

Mayor David Laurell having endorsed a particular candidate for City

Council, I congratulate you. I keep hearing from people who wish they

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could say the same.

Over the years, I’ve seen the mayoral title and the holder’s

endorsement tied to charity golf tournaments, community initiatives

and similar efforts with nonelection civic ties. But in all those

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years combined, I doubt it was flogged to the extent Laurell has

milked it just since he took his turn sliding over to the center

council chair in May. And now we have Brian Malone running for

council with no support publicized to date other than the mayor’s.

Some critics of the odd campaign insist constant use of the

mayor’s title in a campaign must be illegal. It’s not. Unless

taxpayer funds somehow go to campaign activities, boasting a mayor’s

endorsement is no different than boasting a council member’s. Many

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candidates are doing exactly that without raising an eyebrow.

Officials and the candidates they endorse are entitled to use the

titles. It’s up to the public to determine the value of elected,

appointed and honorary labels. The difference today is that most

candidates list council members among many supporters, and the

councilmanic title is typically in small type, like that used for the

titles of other endorsers. Malone’s literature thus far lists only

Laurell and his figurehead title, all in print as large or larger

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than that used for Malone’s own name.

Here’s a photo of Laurell in the mayor’s office shaking hands with

Malone. The mayor “cordially invites” us to a Malone event. There’s

the mayor’s italicized, highlighted quote urging us to join him in

backing Malone. A stunt some seem to find especially irksome has

voters picking up the phone and hearing it’s “The mayor’s office

calling.” It’s not literally a call from the mayor’s office in City

Hall, which would be illegal. It’s from Malone’s real-estate office,

and the call brings exciting news of Laurell’s invitation to attend

Malone’s upcoming campaign event.

The strategy is especially puzzling because Laurell is not a

particularly beloved mayor. The guy has said and done good things,

and, like me, has said and done dumb things. His service ranks

somewhere in the broad middle ground shared by the vast majority of

his predecessors. Surely he has fans. But I suspect a similar number

of critics. Frankly, I can’t think of any past mayor who has even

neared the level of community cachet, influence and esteem that

Malone’s campaign -- crafted in large part by Laurell himself --

implies Laurell can command.

One theory holds that Laurell’s say-so is meant only to get Malone

into the final two or four in the general election runoff, a last

sprint during which his campaign will pick up the heavy hitters

refusing to make picks now. That might have merit, but the plan

requires Malone stand head and shoulders above his competitors in the

final round, and many are not sure he can. Other finalists will have

their current list of backers lobbying the big names in the next leg,

but Malone’s entire cheerleading team could be the soon-to-be-former

mayor, Laurell.

Going into a third month of campaigning, Malone has yet to boast a

second endorsement, and shows no awareness of irritation building

over his promotion of the one. Surely he has other supporters,

because Malone campaign signs are in yards other than Laurell’s. This

week I’ve been told new endorsements are imminent.

Malone has less than two weeks to let people know he can win more

than just two votes on election day; His own, and that of Mayor

Laurell.

NEW MATH

I recently wrote about Measure L, the proposal that would have

Burbank receive $24 million from a state fund voters created two

years ago to pay for building or remodeling libraries. The state fund

is unaffected by the budget crisis. The $24 million will go toward

library building elsewhere if Burbank can’t put it toward a

$38-million bill to replace the current Central Library and the

Northwest Branch. The catch is that Burbank has to pay one-third of

the construction costs to qualify, which is why the city wants to

sell up to $14 million in bonds.

In my column, I relayed estimates Measure L will cost property

owners $1 per month for each $100,000 of assessed value. Noting the

proponents boast the bonds could cost only 10 cents per day for

landowners, I chided measure fans for touting a daily expense

premised upon a $100,000 property, surely a rare beast in Burbank. I

suggested assuming at least a $300,000 average might be fairer.

Several readers immediately did arithmetic so simple my 9-year-old

could do it, revealing the dime-per-day estimate is based on a

$300,000 home. Measure L proponents had already done what I

suggested. I was simply too dumb to check.

A BAD SIGN

Every election year, candidates complain about stolen campaign

signs, convinced there’s an organized effort against them. This year,

one candidate might have good reason to be angry.

In the last election, one candidate’s supporters hid video cameras

at sites where signs kept disappearing. Vanishing signs usually turn

out to be the work of reckless kids, or others oblivious to municipal

elections, but it’s vandalism that can cost a campaign from $1 to $3

for each sign. In the past 13 years, I remember only two waves of

sign thievery connected to campaign foes. This year, there might be a

third.

I pay attention to signs as they spring up. From the hillsides to

the Rancho, from Magnolia Park to the Northwest, I keep noticing

spots with signs for a handful of candidates. And the next time I

pass, only one man’s signs have vanished. Signs for school board

candidate Mike McDonald often don’t last more than a couple of days.

When McDonald’s blue and blaze-orange sign is in the middle of a

group, and a short time later his is routinely the only one that has

vanished, I have to believe someone is targeting him.

It’s time for candidates to remind supporters that sign theft and

similar “dirty tricks” are not just illegal and sleazy. If someone is

caught in the act -- that does happen, and who knows where cameras

are these days -- it instantly reflects badly on any campaign the

perpetrator supports.

* WILL ROGERS’ column appears in every edition of the Leader. He

can be reached 24 hours a day at 637-3200, voice mail ext. 906, or by

e-mail at will.rogers@latimes.com or willrogersemail@earthlink.net.


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