On Jan Perry*

This year’s Los Angeles Mayoral contest features four candidates with a reasonable chance to become L.A.’s next mayor. Two will advance past today’s primary ballot to compete in a runoff contest to determine who will succeed outgoing mayor Antonio Villaragosa as Los Angeles’ 42nd mayor. One of those four candidates is council woman Jan Perry, the lone African-American in the race. Polling suggests she trails rivals Eric Garcetti and Wendy Gruel going into today’s election, but Ms. Perry still has a chance to make it to the run off, and possibly to become Los Angeles’s first female, and first black female, (and first Jewish black female at that) mayor in her history.

Jan Perry has served as a member of the city council for twelve years, and finds herself at the end of her career on the council due to term limits. In her time on the city council, Ms. Perry has certainly had an impact. She is credited (and criticized by some) for having aggressively paved the way for the renewed development of Downtown Los Angeles, pushing the city to allow and incentivize the construction of new hotels, offices and billboards during her time on the council. New construction is often an inconvenience for residents, especially in cities that already have a good deal of it. Even so, during a time when jobs are scarce and business is not flourishing in Los Angeles (and certainly not in South Los Angeles) Jan Perry has brought work and commerce to L.A.

Like her opponents, Jan Perry has conceded what we all know, that the city of Los Angeles faces a desperate fiscal outlook due in large part to extravagant city pension, healthcare plans and salaries. Jan Perry has committed to asking city workers to contribute ten percent to the cost of their health care, as well as renegotiating contracts with DWP workers, whose increasing salaries have particularly burdened the city budget. With a reputation for being a tough, even ruthless negotiator (so much so that some say that she really does not negotiate as much as she bulldozes her opposition), it would seem that Perry has the focus and resolve to achieve changes in this area if she is serious about it. At the same time it can’t be ignored that Jan Perry has sat on the city council (along with three of her opponents) during this time of fiscal deterioration, and so directly or indirectly bears some of the blame.

Nevertheless, though a bit ironically, the strongest endorsement of Jan Perry’s character seems to have come from her own mayoral opponents…all four of them. When asked at a debate at Sinai Temple whom each candidate would endorse if they themselves were not running, each one without exception cited Jan Perry, noting her commitment to principle and her personal integrity. It is not often that one sees such unanimity of respect among politicians for a single opponent. Whether or not the voters of Los Angeles will hold her in such high regard remains to be seen.

*Contributors express views independently and individually. The thoughts and opinions expressed by one do not necessarily reflect the views of all (or any) of the other contributors. Indeed, the breadth of the contributors views and perspectives is a key strength of the commentary expressed on Black Is.

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