We Owe It to Ourselves to Ask Mayoral Hopefuls Tough Questions

Los Angeles is a special place -- blessed with diversity and many unique neighborhoods, which together make one of the greatest cities in the world.

Los Angeles has a bright future, but it will only realize its potential if city leaders face up to the challenges and make the right choices.

We need to fix our schools. We need to create solutions to the problems of traffic, broken streets and sidewalks and the lack of adequate public transportation. We need a city that can live within its means and effectively provide core services like police and fire departments. And we need, once again, to make Los Angeles a city where private sector employers can prosper -- creating good --paying jobs and providing the tax base to pay for the services the city has to provide.

Each and every day during my campaign for mayor, I saw first-hand how these issues impact people's lives. I met with a woman who has a nine-mile commute that takes 3 1/2 hours on a city bus because she has to transfer three times; a child who can't see the chalkboard in school because she lacks glasses, and a family who lost a loved one in a fire because it took too long for help to arrive. I met with too many people who can't find good-paying jobs and heard more stories about potholes than I can count. Government has to be more effective.

The 2013 election for mayor of Los Angeles is not a contest between business and labor, nor is it a contest between the needs of the Westside versus those of the Valley or South L.A., nor is it a contest between Democrats and Republicans.

Ignore what the polls or pundits say now. Polls today merely reflect name ID. The pundits tend to fixate on a three-block radius around City Hall.

The race is wide open, and anyone, including someone not currently in the race, could be elected mayor if Angelenos believe that person will do the best job.

We owe it to ourselves to ask tough questions of all of the candidates. What will they do if elected? Are they prepared to make real change, or are they beholden to special interests or the status quo? What have they done during their careers that demonstrates the experience or capability to get things done? We don't lack for vision in Los Angeles -- we lack for leadership with the experience and commitment to get things done.

We need our newspapers, radio and TV stations and Internet bloggers to treat this as something other than the "Survivor" series. It is appropriate to expect something more of journalists in our town. We should expect them to inform us where the candidates stand on the issues, what experience the candidates bring to the office, and what track record the candidates have on these same issues over the course of their careers.

I intend to keep working to make a difference and hope you will as well. The first place we can start is by helping to tell others in the community what is at stake. Los Angeles has serious challenges -- chronic budget deficits, the worst traffic and worst roads in the nation, and the most unemployed people of any city in America. It's going to take strong and effective leadership to solve these problems. Let's work to find the person who will do the best job.

Austin Beutner is the former First Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles and Founder of Vision To Learn.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News.