As we all know, the advent of online news media and the proliferation of 24/7 television networks purporting to cover the news as it happens has had an especially negative impact on major metropolitan dailies such as the Los Angeles Times.
The Times may no longer have the resources it once had to cover Southern California in depth. But that’s no excuse for some of its befuddling political campaign endorsements, where what’s required is logic and some basic research rather than a team of investigative reporters.
The latest example is the newspaper’s endorsement last week of John Morris over Jeffrey Prang for Los Angeles County Assessor. In the spirit of full disclosure, WEHOville has endorsed Prang for the assessor’s office, where he has been employed for some time now. Frequent readers of WEHOville also know that we sometimes have been critics of Prang. In other words, we’re not shilling for him.
Our belief that Prang is the best candidate for the assessor position actually is bolstered by the L.A. Times’ endorsement of Morris, a deputy district attorney.
Morris, the Times says, “is not the perfect candidate, and he bears some of the naïveté of the first-timer. For example, he is campaigning to sweep out corruption that, frankly, already has been swept out.”
“Prang has some experience in the office, but that doesn’t warrant making him its chief,” the Times writes. “Morris will have a steep learning curve — but he can handle it.”
The Times adds that Prang is “a known quantity and a comforting presence to the many appraisers in the office who ran for assessor but fell short, and the many other elected officials — mostly Democrats — who have endorsed him.” And it goes out of its way to make clear that it isn’t buying the allegations of some campaign opponents that Prang was in any way involved in the shenanigans of John Noguez, who happens to have hired Prang before he was indicted for corruption. That’s the corruption, by the way, that Morris says he’ll clean up and that the Times says already has been cleaned up.
The only bit of logic in the Times’ endorsement of Morris is its statement that Morris worked at a law firm that dealt with some construction projects and that it bets he will be able to pass an exam to earn a real estate appraisal license.
But then the Times notes that the Assessor’s job is “to run the office that appraises homes, business property and other real estate, plus taxable personal property, so that other county officials can collect property taxes.” In other words, neither Morris nor Prang will be visiting property to measure it and figure out what it’s worth. To use an analogy on a higher level, the Times logic for endorsing Morris for his legal work on construction issues is equivalent to saying that Hillary Clinton should be endorsed for President of the United States only if she has experience firing nuclear missiles or cutting Social Security checks.
What we need in the assessor’s office is not someone who has earned a license to assess the value of your house (although, as it happens, Prang has completed the real estate appraisal training program.) We need someone with experience in managing a team of people, and ideally someone who really knows what the assessor’s office is all about. We need someone with the political skills to negotiate with the L.A. County Board of Supervisors for funding for necessary upgrades in the assessor’s office’s operation systems.
What we need is Jeffrey Prang. And we need an L.A. Times editorial board that realizes that poorly researched and illogical endorsements like this one continue to damage the reputation of a once-great newspaper in decline.