Carmageddon as Kingmaker

A favorite political guessing game in and around L.A. County these days is whether County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky will run for L.A. mayor in 2013.

That's when the incumbent, former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, must exit because of term limits.

Speculation has grown hot and heavy in the wake of Yaroslavsky’s leadership role in managing “Carmageddon” – last weekend’s closure of L.A.’s vital 405 Freeway.

Overall, he was, by far, the most visible and vocal public official interacting with the public.

In a potential field that includes the City Controller, one or more Councilmembers, a State Senator and a couple of multi-millionaires, Yaroslavsky would enter the mayor’s race as the likely front runner—given his recent high visibility and his formidable fund-raising clout.

With the State Capitol in virtual gridlock, leadership, up and down the Golden State, will increasingly come from the local level.

California voters, disgusted with Sacramento’s failings, seem to be looking more closely to local leaders to step up.

While Mayor Villaraigosa was front and center for the victory lap after the 405 shutdown of went off without a hitch, he was relatively quiet during the run-up. It was left to Yaroslavsky to steel Angelenos in the face of living without a major artery for a whole weekend.

It’s not that shocking that L.A. motorists rose to the challenge.

They did it for the 1984 Olympics, and again when the 1994 earthquake felled a section of the Santa Monica Freeway. San Francisco Bay Area citizens have risen to their own challenges, coping with damage to the Bay Bridge and the Embarcadero Freeway.

Still Yaroslavsky benefitted from an aura of effectiveness surrounding his performance.

Could that translate into the political boost necessary to propel him into the Mayor’s office? Does that out-front leadership signal that he will finally go for the Mayor’s job?


But, in the past, Yaroslavsky has proven to be risk-averse. The “will he or won’t he” game has been around since 1988, when it looked like then-Mayor Tom Bradley would not be a shoo-in for an unprecedented 5th term in 1989.

Yaroslavsky, then an L.A. City Councilman, backed out of the race after controversial memos, written by his political consultants, were leaked to the L.A. Times.

Ever since, as a County Supervisor unhampered by term limits, Yaroslavsky has toyed now and then with running for mayor, but he’s always pulled back.

Now things have changed.

L.A. County Supes are term-limited and Yaroslavsky is out in 2014. So it’s either take a stab at City Hall in 2013 or simply mark time at the County Hall of Administration 'til the clock runs out.

The kind of stewardship on display during “Carmageddon” weekend is the kind Californians seem to hanker for.

That’s why Yaroslavsky’s next move is one to watch—both by Californians and their political leaders.

Photoshopped image created by Olsen Ebright.

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