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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Jewish Progressive Mike Feuer Runs for Los Angeles Mayor Amid Civil Unrest

In March, days before the pandemic hit, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced he planned to run for mayor in 2022 when Mayor Eric Garcetti will be termed out. 

A former L.A. city councilmember and California district assemblyman, the 62-year-old Jewish, progressive Democrat told the Journal in a phone interview, “The city needs experienced, tested, proven leadership going forward, and I want to be an architect of building a city that doesn’t just get back to normal, but is more equitable and more sustainable and more livable and more resilient and works for everybody. I want to be a unifying leader, and I think that those aspirations meet the moment right now.”

In an effort to show he is attempting to unify the city, Feuer chose not to prosecute the more than 2,500 peaceful protestors arrested for violating curfew in the days after the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death. However, he said those arrested for looting would face charges. “It is deplorable people would act that way,” he said. “But … do I think it is indicative of the majority of people who protested? No. Not at all.”

To that end, Feuer said he hoped to facilitate dialogue among the peaceful protesters and law enforcement, and foster improved relationships in a city currently divided over a plethora of issues, including discussions over defunding the police. “No one is saying there should be no police anywhere,” Feuer said. “Some aspects the city is contemplating now is to separate violent incidents when police are necessary from nonviolent ones.”

Also at the top of his potential mayoral agenda are health care, jobs and education. “When communities have those elements, they are safer,” he said. Other ideas he has percolating include creating a team of leaders to address concerns specific to local communities.

“What residents want is sustainable living in a city that works for them, and one of the tenets of my campaign is I want to have neighborhood mayors in my office who are actively in touch with the priorities people have on their block.” — Mike Feuer

“What residents want is sustainable living in a city that works for them, and one of the tenets of my campaign is I want to have neighborhood mayors in my office who are actively in touch with the priorities people have on their block,” he said.

Feuer, who was raised in San Bernardino County, said it was his late father, Mel, who instilled in him the importance of pursuing a meaningful career. A veteran who fought in World War II as a ball-turret gunner, after his plane went down over France, he was captured. He eventually went on to become a public school administrator. “The lesson [from my father] was I had to find the most important work in the world,” Feuer said.

In that vein, in his role as city attorney since 2013, Feuer has been an outspoken voice against gun violence; achieved a financial settlement from Wells Fargo after the bank opened unauthorized accounts for its customers; and launched the Neighborhood Justice Program, allowing first-time offenders of petty crimes to have their records expunged if they work with a panel of neighborhood volunteers on a set of agreed-upon obligations.

Feuer also cited his strong Jewish background as part of his commitment to tikkun olam. At age 28, he was appointed the executive director of Bet Tzedek; he’s a longtime member of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills; and a volunteer with Jewish Family Services Los Angeles.

He also believes the work he currently is doing will stand him in good stead should he become mayor. During the pandemic, his office has used social media to connect with the public, warning them about scammers posing as contact tracers in an attempt to get their personal information, and about retailers hawking ineffective and dangerous coronavirus treatments.

Also among his COVID-19-related worries has been the long-term economic impact of the lockdown for small businesses, something he believes will still need to be addressed in 2022. “We need to do everything we can to enable small business to thrive here,” he said. “I anticipate heavily emphasizing that in my [mayoral] administration. It could be — at least for a time — there needs to be a city department focused on small-business recovery, along with access to capital, job capital, regulatory reform, an array of things. I am open to that conversation.”

Feuer said he envisions creating “L.A. 2.0, [an] equitable, inclusive place where we show how much we need each other. With all the enormous challenges the pandemic has posed for us comes an opportunity to think again about what L.A. should be moving forward.”

Citing a graduation speech he once gave, Feuer said, “As you gain more experience in life, what matters to you most will be the way you have grown your family. Have you created a loving close environment there? What have you done for other people? For me, I know enough about myself to know my sense of purpose is deeply tied to making the world better. Forgive me,” he said, “I am sounding kind of corny. I am kind of corny, but I own up to that.”

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