The Smartest Conversation in Town
Chapman Won’t Forget the Vet | Bright Spot in Middle | Fork in Road for LA | Santa Ana’s Edge | Irvine’s New Dems | OC’s Squad | LA Times in the Tank?

Chapman Won’t Forget the Vet | Bright Spot in Middle | Fork in Road for LA | Santa Ana’s Edge | Irvine’s New Dems | OC’s Squad | LA Times in the Tank?

Let’s thank our military veterans before we do anything else this week.

The pending arrival of Veterans Day on November 11 also makes this a good time to amplify a well-deserved mention of Chapman University in Orange, which recently got a boost from the “Ask Amy” column that’s carried in 150 newspapers nationwide.

Advice columnist Amy Dickinson responded to a reader whose 90-year-old mother was considering burning 174 letters that her late husband had sent her when he was a young sailor in the U.S. Navy.

A headshot of Andrew Carroll

“Researching your question, I read a story in Smithsonian Magazine about a remarkable man named Andrew Carroll and his heroic effort to found the “Million Letters Campaign,” with the goal to collect one million letters from military members for the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University (search for the center at … Perhaps in celebration of Veterans Day this year, people will be inspired to open that suitcase, shoebox, or plastic bin — and read, re-read, scan, and donate these important slices of history.”

Kudos to Chapman and Carroll—and thanks once again to our veterans, so many of whom have fought and died on foreign soil to defend the democracy we redeem with each election and peaceful transfer of power at home.

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Middle Marks the Spot

Look carefully and you’ll see that the people are ahead of the politicians—an assessment based on what seems to be a call from voters for a centrist path forward for America and Americans.

It was a middle path that carried natural-born centrist Joe Biden to the White House while Republicans kept the Senate and improved their lot in the House.

And that’s the road California voters took as they opted mostly for common sense. The defeats of ballot measures that sought to hike taxes on commercial property and complicate the lives of gig workers and their employers offered an indicator that Californians are telling the “progressive” Democrats who dominate the state’s politics and government to step back toward the center.

There’s another reason for optimism, in any case.

The results of the presidential election might have been up in the air for a while, but America has been remarkably calm and confident in our democracy.

Do LA ‘Progressives’ Lag Larger Trend?

LA looks a bit different—local results indicate politics in the city and countywide shifted a bit farther to the left.

No surprise there—but don’t expect that trend to necessarily hold as LA comes to grips with how deep its troubles run with the twin public health crises of Covid-19 and homelessness.

The local results might instead be a sign that both city and countywide politics lag the moderating trend that’s underway in California and nationally.

Indeed, LA looks to be at a fork in the road. Will it take the path toward moderation as the logical path to remaining a leading national and global metropolis? Or keep drifting left until it turns into an ideological boutique town along the lines of San Francisco?

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Trend Spotting in OC

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is all in with an all-female lineup, thanks to the addition of State Senator Holly Mitchell.

Santa Ana will raise them a majority-millennial City Council, thanks to the addition of 28-year-old Jonathan Ryan Hernandez, and of Thai Viet Phan and Jessie Lopez, both 31.

Headshots of Jonathan Ryan Hernandez, Thai Viet Phan and Jessie Lopez
Hernandez, Phan, Lopez

Santa Ana might live in the shadow of LA, but it is more populous than St. Louis, Pittsburgh and a couple of other cities with big-league ball teams.

Santa Ana looks like the future, too. Its population is young, with a median age of 33. That compares with 35 for LA and 47 for Newport Beach, as a range of reference. The city is majority non-white, with Latino-Americans making up its largest ethnic community, alongside significant numbers of Whites and Asian-Americans.

Informal, street-level checks of the city’s streets and neighborhoods in the weeks leading up to the November 3 vote indicated an intense interest in local races and decidedly less on the presidential contest.

Take all of that together and bounce it off the results statewide and nationally, and it raises a couple of questions: Will the City Council millennials—all of whom happen to be Democrats—necessarily follow a “progressive” path in Santa Ana? And will that get them re-elected?

I’ll keep you posted.

Irvine’s Other Dems

The bit about Santa Ana being more populous than a lot of better-known cities with big-league sports teams applies to Irvine, too, if you consider that its population of nearly 300,000 is regularly joined by a couple of hundred thousand workers each day—at least in a world free of any pandemic.

And you can add a research university, a world-renowned public-school system, and a business district of enviable size, breadth and depth to Irvine’s resume.

Headshots of Farah N. Kahn and Larry Agran
Kahn, Agran

All of which make it worth mentioning that Farah Kahn defeated incumbent Mayor Christina Shea in Irvine by a wide margin with a focus firmly on the future. Kahn’s win came after she rejected a de facto endorsement from fellow Democrat Larry Agran, who offered the backing via a weekly newspaper that’s considered part of his camp.

Agran rolled along like a retreaded tire in his campaign to rejoin the City Council—he had a narrow lead for a seat on the body at last check. This year’s run is the latest chapter in an on-again-off-again career for Agran. He has been part of Irvine’s government for most of the city’s 50 years in existence, and now looks to be more vestige than vanguard when it comes to its politics and everyday life.

That point is likely to be underscored by Agran finishing the race for a City Council seat behind Tammy Kim—another relative newcomer and Democrat who seems more oriented toward Irvine’s future than its past.

GOP’s Kor-Am Squad

Democrats weren’t alone on wins in OC, which seems to be morphing into the prototypical purple patch.

Headshots of Young Kim and Michelle Steel
Kim, Steel

GOP candidates Young Kim and Michelle Steel both appeared poised to get a ticket to Washington, D.C., by reclaiming House seats that famously flipped to Dems in recent years. Kim was ahead of Gil Cisneros, and Steel held a narrow margin over Harley Rouda, at last check.

Both Kim and Steel are Korean-American, and each offers another reminder of why anyone who equates “minority” or “communities of color” with the Democratic Party had better wake up.

The takeaway from OC applies across America: Life isn’t as simple as your favorite cable TV commentator says.

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LA Times in Tank on Soon-Shiong’s Business?

California historian and author Miriam Pawel—a one-time staffer at the LA Times—joins this column in wondering about whether the publication has tanked its coverage of the varied interests of its biotech billionaire owner Patrick Soon-Shiong.

“LA City council approved a resolution last week directing staff to approach Patrick Soon-Shiong about city/county lease to reopen St. Vincent hospital. Curiously, I find no news story on this …” Pawel tweeted on October 30. She was referring to the LA City Council’s move to pursue a lease of St. Vincent Medical Center from a foundation run by Soon-Shiong’s family.

You can see prior coverage by this column here—and stay tuned for more.

Pawel is a regular contributor of op-eds to the New York Times these days and the author of “The Browns of California,” among other titles.

LA Times in Boiler Room on Circulation?

Here’s a separate line of inquiry about the LA Times, which seems to be taking a boiler-room approach to subscriptions sales as a way to manipulate cash flow.

A digital subscriber to the daily edition of the publication was informed via email in mid-October that the cost of the deal would more than double, from $7.96 every four weeks to $15.96 every four weeks.

The subscriber called customer service and asked to cancel the subscription rather than pay the higher rate. He was then offered a rate of $5.92.

Just to review the bidding: The LA Times wanted to double the price it was getting. It buckled at the first sign of resistance, giving up its proposed increase and lowering the price past the deal it already had in place, cutting another 25% off its price.

The catch: A charge of $15.96—for four weeks of access, under the initial price requested—would be made on November 1. The charge would later be credited back, with the rate of $5.92 every four weeks eventually taking effect.

Again, this happened in mid-October. There was no reason the publication couldn’t have simply started the agreed-upon lower rate in November.

Why complicate matters with the upfront charge at the higher rate followed by a credit that will be phased in over several months?

Perhaps to make it through a cash crunch—essentially getting bridge loans from subscribers in the form of early charges.

That’s likely a short-term and ill-fated strategy—further eroding an ailing brand by trading long-term pricing power for an immediate injection of revenue.

No comment from the LA Times.

Sullivan Says

Soon-Shiong told Forbes in August that his efforts to develop and market a Covid-19 vaccine are “behind the eight ball because there’s no way I could have 100 million doses unless somebody supports me,” a plea for financial help that came about a month before the Los Angeles Business Journal estimated his personal wealth at $21.8 billion.


Follow me on Twitter @SullivanSaysSC.