Local Silver Lake resident Steve Barr is considering a run for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s seat, while Mitchell Schwartz has announced he will run for Mayor in the 2017 election.
Schwartz, 55, lives in Windsor Square with his wife and three children, ages 14, 12 and 6. He has extensive experience in public relations, media and political consulting. Highlights of his career include involvement in nearly every presidential election since Walter Mondale in 1984 and his appointment as the Communications Director of the United States State Dept. during the Clinton administration.
Here in Los Angeles, he launched the Dept. of Water and Power’s Green Power Program in 1999, which became the largest and most successful program of its kind in the country.
Through the years, Schwartz has been involved in issues of sustainability and conservation and said he believes the city could offer incentives to attract environmentally friendly businesses.
“I’d like [Los Angeles] to be a center of renewable technologies,” he said.
According to Schwartz, the core of his campaign, however, will focus on crime, homelessness, development and infrastructure.
“My campaign will really be about quality of life issues,” said Schwartz.
Schwartz pointed to Windsor Square as an example of the decaying infrastructure of Los Angeles.
“There has been a lot of deferred maintenance and that’s resulted in buckling sidewalks and unpaved streets….We need to deal with the infrastructure.”
Were he to become mayor, Schwartz said he would draw on his significant network to find people in Los Angeles and beyond to work for his vision of the city.
“I’d have a combination of experienced people who have worked in government and people from outside [government],” he said. “ [I’d] take the best practices from all over the country.”
Having worked with many politicians, Schwartz said he plans to emulate the quality that the best have—political courage.
“You have to be willing to take on entrenched interests and be willing to make tough decisions that don’t help your career,” he said.
Schwartz said he believes there has been a “failure of leadership in city hall” due to politicians who are more concerned about their own careers than the people of the city.
“If I were to win,” said Schwartz, “I’d be so happy just to be mayor that that’s all I would want to do. I’m not looking for another position.”
Steve Barr, 56, shares Schwartz’s disillusionment with city hall.
“Los Angeles is a dynamic city with the most un-dynamic leadership,” he said.
Barr, who lives with his wife and two children aged 10 and 7 in Silver Lake, will announce whether he will run or not in early April.
As the founder of Green Dot Public Schools, Barr spearheaded the creation of the largest network of public charter schools serving Los Angeles. He is the chairman of California Democrats for Education Reform and Future is Now, a national organization highlighting teacher-led initiatives.
Most recently, he has been working on the creation of the California Teacher Corps, a program designed to address the statewide teacher shortage in public schools by offering some economic relief and professional support for new teachers. A bill proposing the program was introduced in February by California State Senator Ben Allen.
“It will create a residency program in this state,” Barr said, “so that teachers can learn from master teachers their first year before they become full-time teachers.”
Barr said he believes many of the city’s issues stem from a lack of focus on education.
“I think we need to rally the city around our main infrastructural economic engine, which is our education system,” he said. “I think the mayor and the city’s budget seems to primarily revolve around patching and fixing the problems that come from not having an educated electorate, whether it be crime or the ability to attract business.”
Barr is also concerned about traffic congestion, development and the alarming increase in homelessness.
“The hard work is getting different groups around an issue like education or homelessness and focusing on it…reminding people over and over again that there are probably 80 to 90% of the things that they agree on and not focus[ing] on things that they don’t agree on.”
Barr said he realizes voters might question his capability if he campaigns.
“Somebody asked me the other day,” Barr said, “‘what makes you think you can run a city?’ I said, ‘Creating a school district in the highest need areas from scratch that now serves 11,000 kids….Being that successful, I think, is great training.”
Barr added a thought about his approach toward leadership.
“If you look at my background, it’s not just about talking at issues,” he said, “but creating some pathways and some hope and some empowerment and I’m going to see if that translates in a campaign.”
Three other candidates have put their names in for current Mayor Eric Garcetti’s job. They are Yehuda “YJ” Draiman from Northridge, Frantz Pierre from downtown Los Angeles and Jeffrey Sharp, who did not return requests for information.
According to the city’s Ethics Commission, the candidates who challenge Garcetti, will have a lot of catching up to do regarding campaign donations. As of December 31, 2015, Garcetti has already raised $2.2 million for his campaign for re-election.