MEMBER, LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL
District No. 2 -- Joel Wachs
A case against term limits: Joel Wachs has been on the City Council since 1971, and he has just completed what is not only his best term on the council but one of the better terms in L.A. history. Over the past four years, Wachs gave crucial support to the living-wage ordinance, fought a lonely but finally effective battle to limit city subsidies to the new Staples Arena, and was a consistent voice for opening more of the council's business to public scrutiny. We haven't supported Wachs in the past, but this time around we support him enthusiastically.
District No. 4 -- No endorsement
A case for term limits: Old John Ferraro, the council's senior member, with 33 years on the job, has become a feature of the L.A. landscape, like City Hall, or the Hyperion Sewage Treatment Center. As the council's presiding officer, in fact, Ferraro has to sort through more garbage than just about any other Angeleno, a task he performs efficiently and with as much dispatch as is possible. He's also a far more conservative and unimaginative member than his district deserves -- though, as is invariably the case, he has no serious opposition on the ballot. We've never endorsed him before -- and, truth be told, he's never missed our endorsement in the slightest. Why muck with a perfect record?
District No. 6 -- Ruth Galanter
The erstwhile enviro-crusader from Venice can still rouse some rabble to good effect. It was chiefly Galanter who organized the opposition to the pell-mell expansion of LAX, and Galanter who's been the council's leading advocate of long-range transportation alternatives, including rapid rail to Palmdale and Ontario (two non-LAX airport options). As chair of the council's Commerce, Energy and Natural Resources Committee, she's been instrumental in designating as nature preserves properties that might otherwise have been built up. But increasingly, and disappointingly, this onetime neighborhood organizer turned council veterano has become a knee-jerk defender of the established order, as attested to by her deep antipathy to the charter-reform measure. Nonetheless, she's clearly preferable to any of her opponents.
District No. 7 -- Corinne Sánchez
The election of incumbent Richard Alarcón to the state Senate last November created a vacancy in this East Valley seat, and six candidates are running to succeed him. The front-runners are Alex Padilla, a campaign functionary, and Corinne Sánchez, who heads up a community health-care center.
Padilla brings a résumé that's understandably short, since he just turned 26. An MIT graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering, he returned to the district to manage successful field campaigns for Alarcón and for Assembly Members Tony Cardenas and Gil Cedillo. As field director on Alarcón's Senate campaign, he wasn't in the loop when the campaign turned out its scurrilous attack on Alarcón opponent Richard Katz, charging Katz with discouraging Latino voter participation when the record showed precisely the opposite -- but neither has he repudiated it. There's no contesting Padilla's fundamental decency, or his commitment to working people and union causes. Beyond that, however, his record and his positions, or lack thereof, suggest he's not yet ready for prime time.
Attorney Corinne Sánchez combines the best of a movement past (she's endorsed by the United Farm Workers) and an activist present. For over 20 years, she's been president of El Proyecto del Barrio, a community clinic that is widely respected for offering some of the best health-care, drug-rehabilitation and AIDS programs in L.A. She'll bring to the council a healthy skepticism toward developers, a clear feminist perspective and a commitment to cross-racial coalitions -- three qualities the city can never have enough of. She has our enthusiastic support.
District No. 8 -- Mark Ridley-Thomas
We seem to be on the verge of a Mark Ridley-Thomas Civic Moment. After years of waging an often lonely battle to bring the NFL back to the Coliseum, Ridley-Thomas may well win this most long-shot of all bets. More important, his 8th District Empowerment Congress -- the multiracial assembly that sets district priorities for the councilman to pursue -- has become the model for City Council candidates and incumbents and civic activists who are scrambling now to set up neighborhood councils in their own back yards. The world is beating a path to Ridley-Thomas' door, and for the best of all possible reasons: to find a way to deepen democratic participation.
On the downside, the incumbent from the 8th has often seemed an unnecessarily ornery cuss, particularly with constituents who haven't signed on to whatever program he may be pushing. We also suspect there's a circle of hell on which long-winded sinners are condemned to diagram Ridley-Thomas' baroque-verging-on-rococo sentences for all eternity. Syntax and disposition notwithstanding, however, Ridley-Thomas has our clear support for another term on the council.