The teachers strike in the second-largest school district in the country ended Tuesday, so, according to local media, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has returned his attention to running for president.
It stopped raining. The ever-expanding population of young homeless druggies has returned from the shelters and is doing meth in their "home" on the beach (I kid you not; the police have been told they need a warrant). The formerly liberal homeowners have hired lawyers. The police patiently explain to a 94-year-old homeowner miles from the beach that she should try to look the other way when the kids are defecating in public behind the house she has lived in for 60 years. The cops put cuffs on a man who is masturbating in public and then take them off 10 minutes later, because what are they supposed to do? ... And Garcetti is running for president?
The teachers are right about one thing: The schools in Los Angeles — with exceptions, of course — are a disgrace. The classes are too big. That's true. But that's not the only thing the teachers were striking about. One in five school kids in Los Angeles goes to a charter school. Parents have voted with their feet, you might say. Teachers took to the streets. It wasn't just class size they were protesting; it was also charter schools. Few charter schools in the city are affiliated with their union. Of course they all picketed.
As part of the deal, the district — read: the mayor — agreed to vote on a resolution asking the state to put a cap on charter schools in Los Angeles.
The teachers union left more than 500,000 kids with no classes to attend so they could walk the streets demanding a limit on charter schools — even though most charter schools do a much better job of educating kids than the ones at which they teach. And Garcetti is running for president?
It gets more ridiculous. The excuse for the limit on charter schools: inadequate supervision. Last November, the union spent tens of millions of dollars that it collected to defeat the candidate for superintendent of public education who got his MBA from Harvard and served as president of Green Dot Public Schools and built some of the most successful charter schools in the county and then supervised even more as CEO of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a school district-city initiative that runs 18 district schools. Actually, Green Dot (I served on its board for many years) is unionized, just not with United Teachers Los Angeles, which is why UTLA managed to get a social worker elected to the position instead.
Oh, yes, and while the druggies have taken over the beach, low-income families huddle in two-room apartments because there is a housing crisis facing people who actually work, or want to, not to mention all the folks who spend 25 percent of their waking hours in their car every day because of the cost of housing and the lunacy of traffic. And then it rains.
Big-city mayor, Hispanic heritage, progressive politics — I get it. But before Eric heads to Iowa, he needs to deal with the problems right here.
Community meetings have turned ugly. Liberal strongholds have turned against him. No one is talking about the Olympics coming someday, Garcetti's great triumph. Maybe everything will be nice and tidy by then. But people are talking about what's happening right here, right now.
I can just see the ads: Venice Beach and the druggies, the cops walking right by, the shouts at the community meetings, a few clips from the strike and the endless miles of traffic — in the rain.
Will he do for America what he's done for Los Angeles?
They ran ads like that against a candidate of mine, years ago. And they worked, even though he had actually done a pretty great job at home. The last few months in Los Angeles under Eric Garcetti make it way too easy to rain on his Iowa parade.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)