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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
* 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 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.