Running an Honest Political Campaign

By: 
Ian Sean Patton

Recently the Los Angeles County Registrar certified results for all LA County elections. While this election for the new 5th City Council District of Long Beach did not go our way, I have only a feeling a gratitude for this yearlong experience and especially for all those who in innumerable ways joined me on this journey.

There were folks I’ve known for years and then there are folks who I only got to know through this effort and who were nonetheless incredibly dedicated to this cause. Many observers often remarked to me how passionate the core supporters of this campaign were. While nothing could be more personally gratifying than to have a group of neighbors and friends invest personal confidence in my leadership, I never forgot that the campaign was not fundamentally about me personally.

We all understood very clearly that it was about the preservation of a quality of life in this city – where I was born and raised and where many of us have lived for decades – which we all see slowly (but we hoped not inexorably) slipping away.

The neighborhoods of the 5th District have been a wonderful place for many generations of diverse, middle class families to come of age and thrive. This is a place where, for as long as most can remember, the thought of leaving in order to escape further decline was unthinkable.

Yet in recent years I have heard a disturbing refrain from a surprising number, that they have their sights set on perhaps greener pastures, where they feel they can get a better return on their home value or rental dollar or tax dollar in terms of street maintenance, the quality of parks and public spaces, the cleanliness of the air and environment, public safety, a more humane and serious approach to homelessness, and a genuine attentiveness to the needs of residents.

Whether one grew up here or not, we all deserve to live in a place not threatened by sudden impacts of a local government which constantly sells out our interests as residents to those more powerful. When the power of city government can simply be commercialized and traded away by morally bankrupt politicians in return for campaign support, decline can set in quickly.

As I made as clear as I could during the campaign, when a backhoe can show up next door one morning, ushering in the destruction of a single-family zoned street, everything one takes for granted as a resident is at risk. When a telecom conglomerate can plant an energy-intensive cell tower/fire hazard at the end of your driveway or an unlimited stream of commercial pilot trainees can buzz overhead at midnight, without a City Council advocate pushing back, the potential for residents’ alienation is no longer theoretical.

When multiple crises affecting real lives can simply be ignored or treated as simply another quotidian item of business, we know that City Hall is not failing in its goals. Our welfare has long since stopped being its concern at all.

From our sprawling, escalating homelessness crisis to the total lack of staffing and dysfunction in our emergency services to the closure of emergency room and paramedic dispatch infrastructure to the fact that we still have carcinogenic air to the disastrous state of parks and open space to massive boondoggles like the Civic Center rebuild and the Queen Mary deal to the inability to pay for basic street maintenance despite having some of the highest taxation, our city is not just failing us. It is winning at the game of telling voters not to believe their own ‘lyin’ eyes’.

We who cared about this campaign know all this all too well, of course.

We know how the machine exists to gaslight the public while diverting our tax dollars into the pockets of monied interests, which in turn keep the machine politicians in office.

We know that the control of endorsements and money – primarily enormous “independent expenditure” PACs (our opponent had at least five of them pushing behind her, ensuring that their rubber stamp would win, while we of course had none) – is used to manipulate the large and unsuspecting portion of the electorate that can successfully be misled, by means of blatant dishonesty, to vote against its own interests.

I truly hoped and fought like hell – against the establishment’s increasingly immense systemic advantages (including even an election calendar tailored to produce a particular electorate) – to be your advocate on all these issues.

I truly hoped to be the leading edge for reform of policing, pushing us in the direction of denser, more community-oriented, responsible staffing of our police department.

I truly hoped to reform the outrageously mismanaged homelessness system.

I truly hoped to push for a faster transition away from carcinogenic diesel emissions from goods movement corridors wrapping our city, especially the western side, in a deadly embrace.

I truly hoped to throw the light of day on our city finances – among the worst in the State of California – and get an outside, comprehensive audit.

I truly hoped to reset our course on open space, refunding park maintenance and respecting longstanding city and county pledges to revitalize the LA River and build the Riverpark.

And I truly hoped to defend small business. Despite being the spokes of the wheel for the community, it is constantly the unwanted stepchild of Long Beach City Hall, and proprietors and staff are now under siege by threats from crime and chaos right outside (and sometimes inside) their storefronts.

I never had any illusions that all these things would challenge the downtown establishment to its core. It has spent many years entrenching first dibs on all the city’s revenue – our money – and was not going to give us back our hundreds of millions of dollars without a fight. We always knew we would be battling uphill on an uneven playing field.

But I remain honored that you had the confidence in me to lead this fight for our district and city. I have no regrets. Our city, our quality of life and our neighborhoods were and are worth fighting for.

Happy holidays and see you soon.

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