As politicians begin to line up for Los Angeles’ 2013 mayoral race, one question looms over every conversation capping the race: What happens if Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky decides to run?
The political heavyweight has been a mainstay of Los Angeles’ civic life since he was first elected to the Los Angeles City Council in 1975 at the age of 26. He represented the Fifth District for almost 20 years, until he joined the Board of Supervisors in 1994.
Now 62 and in his final term over at the Hall of Administration, City Hall insiders are taking bets on what Yaroslavsky will do.
“A decision is not imminent,” Yaroslavsky said in an interview with The City Maven.
“If I decide to run, I think I’ll be a credible candidate with as good a chance as anyone to be elected, and I don’t think it will make a difference if I make that decision in April or July or September. People of Los Angeles know me and I don’t have to have a long run up of introductory (events).”
The supervisor said he is focused on his work at the county and has a full plate that doesn’t necessarily include a mayoral campaign. That said, Yaroslavsky has strong ideas on what the next mayor of Los Angeles will have to do to avoid bankruptcy and get the city back on solid financial ground.
“I think the next mayor – whoever he or she may be – is going to have to be tough enough to make some difficult decisions, and the one thing that attracts me to it, other than the challenge itself, is that that would be it for me. I don’t have any other ambitions. I’m not running for governor or senator or president or any other job,” Yaroslavsky said.
“I have nothing else to prove to anybody. The only objective I would have would be to set the city back on the right course. That’s kind of an appealing opportunity.”
And it’s not difficult to see areas where Los Angeles appears to have gotten off track. Yaroslavsky points to higher taxes and fees, a major structural deficit and the failed plan to sell off assets, which he believes was ill-conceived from the start.
“City Hall is a mess. They’ve eviscerated the Planning Department. They have rolling brown outs in the Fire Department, something that would have been unthinkable when I was there,” he said. “The city streets are as bad as Leningrad in the former Soviet Union when I was there in 1991.”
However, for all of the talk of the next mayor’s toughness, Yaroslavsky’s comments ultimately come off like tough love.
“Whether I run for mayor or I don’t run for mayor, I live in the city. I’ve lived in the city all my life,” Yaroslavsky said. “I was born and raised here, went to public schools here, from elementary school through graduate school at UCLA. I love the city of L.A. I love the communities in which I’ve lived and served. This is a great city, where anything is possible. Really, anything is possible.”