AS IF YOU ASKED
In a weekend column, I mentioned that I sensed tension developing in
the camps of some of the candidates for council who survived the
primary election. Events in the 72 hours since lead me to declare
that our “Election Hostilities Alert” status has now reached level
In one of the developments, Mayor David Laurell withdrew his
endorsement Saturday for Brian Malone, the primary’s fourth-place
finisher. Laurell has said Councilman Dave Golonski, who came out to
endorse Malone just two weeks ago, has also withdrawn his
endorsement. But Golonski told me he hasn’t made a decision to do
that. Golonski said he’s still weighing changes he might make in his
endorsements in light of the primary results, if any.
Let’s acknowledge what the parties are saying publicly on all
this. But we won’t waste much time on it, because numerous reliable
sources assure me it’s all a bunch of hooey. First, Laurell’s public
statement explained, “I have weighed Brian’s ideas, opinions,
experience and knowledge of issues and can no longer endorse his
candidacy for a seat on the on the City Council.” Presumably as some
sort of face-saving gesture toward Malone, Laurell has also said he
withdrew his endorsement because he knew Malone had to devote time
and attention to a close friend who was ill.
Malone told me he still enjoys “massive support from Realtors and
others in Burbank,” and that he will “just move forward.” The
real-estate agent still automatically refers to Laurell only as “my
mayor,” and insists he has “no bad feelings toward my mayor.”
Malone says his friend’s illness isn’t serious, but that “My
mayor, the man who sat down and invited me to run in this election,
is entitled to make a different decision for personal political
reasons.” Malone added, “I just don’t know what they are.”
Malone loaned $10,000 to his own campaign, and the cases of
literature produced with that cash prominently boast of Laurell’s
endorsement. And Malone says he has no hard feelings? In his shoes,
I’d be trying to bang “my mayor’s” head on the asphalt. But I’m not
running for office, and so can get away with flip remarks.
There’s another explanation for Laurell’s move, one tied to
Malone’s performance in a candidates’ forum hosted by the Chamber of
Commerce on Saturday, a program being replayed via City Hall’s cable
channel every day until the election. Many sources say Laurell and
Golonski were appalled by Malone’s performance. I’ve heard many times
that nervous supporters have waited weeks for Malone to start doing
his homework, and to grasp relevant facts and figures. But after
Saturday’s forum, they’ve concluded he not only failed to improve,
One of Malone’s answers was actually gibberish, a series of buzz
words and sentences strung together and creating the appearance of an
answer. He proved a lack of familiarity with some prominent projects,
and in a couple instances verbally relocated entire neighborhoods.
Then Malone boasted of having discussed the future of city utility
rates with a particular department head, apparently unaware the
staffer named isn’t the one who oversees city utilities.
But I’ve seen worse forum presentations, and supporters of those
candidates simply defended the debacles as nothing more than the
result of nervousness. And one other little tidbit creates doubt that
Malone’s handling of the forum inspired Laurell’s decision. Malone
told me Laurell asked him to “be a good soldier,” withdraw from the
race and throw his support to another candidate. Malone said the
mayor made that request BEFORE the forum.
Malone won’t speculate on Laurell’s motives, but the purpose of a
pre-forum request is obvious, and it’s where most of the other
candidates get dragged into all of this. First, though, understand
that the appointed incumbent councilman, Jef Vander Borght, is the
one candidate escaping this fray. Indeed, as has been the case since
the lineup became official months back, Vander Borght has been the
one candidate a diverse array of groups and players have agreed to
Restaurant owner Gary Bric finished a distant second in the
primary, 2,000 votes behind Vander Borght. After that, less than 800
votes separate Bric’s second place and Malone’s fourth. Todd Campbell
landed in the middle with third place.
Early on in the campaign, Bric won a nod from former Mayor Mary
Lou Howard, an endorsement traditionally followed by support from
some city employee groups and other prominent pals of Howard. But
there’s also been an undercurrent of nervousness about Bric. In
short, several community leaders privately say they’re sure Bric is
far out of his depth in City Hall. Even one of Bric’s endorsers told
me, “I actually hope he loses, because if he wins he’ll eventually
embarrass me.” But the nervousness doesn’t outweigh the perceived
risks of going with Campbell or Malone.
Concerns about Bric were heightened by literature he put out with
the headline “Civic and Charitable Involvement,” followed by an
amazing list of 23 local events and organizations. Representatives
for several told me they’re mystified as to how Bric could claim any
association to them. Others were astounded he used the donation of a
restaurant gift certificate long ago, or some similar involvement, to
manufacture a record of community service.
Those who doubted Bric before are now working actively to block
him. And common sense dictates that trying to move Campbell up one
notch will be easier than moving Malone up two. And so a circle of
support abandons Malone and shifts to Campbell.
Alas, and indicative of problems plaguing this year’s candidate
field since day one, some observers are every bit as worried about
Campbell. He keeps saying he’s a lifelong resident, glossing over the
fact he moved here less than a year ago after a decade on the
Westside and in Washington, D.C.
Campbell is also vexed by a wave of faxes and e-mails posted
throughout the city, messages declaring that Campbell is lying about
his background. Campbell confirmed one report in the messages, that
he was arrested in 1996 for public drunkenness over an episode at a
bar. But he vehemently denied other claims in the message. He told me
he suspects the pieces are being sent by a cousin who “has no
interest in or knowledge of the election.
“What’s really at issue is the settlement of my grandfather’s
estate,” Campbell said. He says the division of assets has created
hostile divisions in his family.
So, the mayor withdrew an endorsement because of concern tied to
an illness, and/or because of a candidate’s failure to do homework,
and/or in an attempt to help another candidate. Golonski withdrew his
endorsement, but he didn’t. Others may or may not do the same,
whatever that is. One candidate has invented a record of intense
community service for a decade he was actually virtually invisible,
and another didn’t live here through that decade, but he’s been here
his whole life.
As one frustrated community leader put it, “Can’t I just vote for
Jef Vander Borght twice?” The answer is, “No, you can’t.”
* 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.