By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
MEMBER OF THE COUNCIL
1st DISTRICT — ROBERT NAKAHIRO
The race to succeed the term-limited Mike Hernandez in this immigrant-heavy, poverty-stricken district that snakes around downtown was thrown into happy turmoil last month when the heavily favored state Senator Richard Polanco — one of the real powerhouses of California politics — suddenly withdrew from the race, for reasons that still are not entirely clear. The two candidates left standing both bring considerable strengths to the race.
Ed Reyes is best known for having served as Hernandez’s chief of staff during the time Hernandez was speed-freaking from his cocaine and alcohol addictions, and then altogether absent as he entered a rehab program to clean up his act. Not exactly an assignment that a City Hall staffer would jump at, but by all accounts, Reyes was exemplary before, during and after Hernandez’s fall, bringing constituents in such historically ignored communities as Pico-Union into the planning process for their neighborhoods. A planner by profession, Reyes worked for a community-development corporation in Oakland, and for the L.A. City Planner’s Office before he went to work for Hernandez.
Attorney Robert Nakahiro is a Boyle Heights native and community activist — president of an Eastside legal center and board member for Northeast Community Clinic, a seemingly ubiquitous figure at worker-rights and environmental events throughout the district. By his own account, he’s “a poster child for diversity” (born to a Japanese-American father and a white mother, raised by his Latino stepfather) — not a bad thing to have on the governing body of a city that’s perhaps the most diverse on the planet.
There are some subtle differences of politics and some not so subtle differences of temperament between these two candidates. The 1st District is home to fewer parks and recreational facilities than just about any in the city, and both candidates opposed the warehouses that the mayor had slated for the Cornfields area and the industrial-commercial use he’s planned for the Taylor Yards. But Reyes tends to favor a mixed-use designation for these sites — a commercial stretch as well as parks — while Nakahiro sides with such groups as Friends of the L.A. River in favoring a riverside greenbelt and schools for these venues. As to temperament, Reyes is a reserved insider, while Nakahiro is a voluble outside agitator. Reyes has a deeper knowledge of how to work the system, and would do so to generally good ends; Nakahiro would try to shake that system up a bit, to ends we think would be exemplary. In a close call, we’re recommending Nakahiro for the council.
3rd DISTRICT — JUDITH HIRSHBERG
For the past two decades, this southwest San Fernando Valley district has been represented on the City Council by moderate, slightly left-of-center Democrats: first, Joy Picus, and then, for the past eight years, the now-term-limited Laura Chick. This year, however, two of the front-runners in the race to succeed Chick would mark a clear break from the Picus-Chick tradition.
Both Francine Oschin, long a senior aide to Republican Councilman Hal Bernson (from the northwest Valley’s 12th District), and Dennis Zine, an LAPD sergeant and longtime stalwart of the Police Protective League, would signal a clear shift to right on some fundamental city issues. Both are running demagogic law-’n’-order campaigns; both oppose the consent decree between the LAPD and the federal government, which Chick supported. Zine has decent positions on bread-and-butter economic issues like worker rights and the living wage, but in a city still struggling mightily to assert civilian control over the police, his elevation to the city’s governing body would be a big step backward.
There are two candidates in the race, however, very much in the Picus-Chick mold; problem is, there’s a danger in the primary that they’ll cancel each other out. Judith Hirshberg is the veteran here; she was a staffer in the Valley office of Mayor Tom Bradley, and for many years ran the Valley office of City Councilman Marvin Braude. More important, she’s also a veteran activist who’s taken a leadership role in community organizations and cause groups. She’s long been a leader in the National Women’s Political Caucus, and a strong proponent of greater gender equity in the LAPD. An advocate for small-business interests, she also supports the living-wage ordinance and the proposal for an affordable-housing trust fund large enough to impact the city’s housing market.
The other moderate Democrat in the race is Tsilah Burman, an urban planner who’s worked for commercial real estate firms, the Hollywood Revitalization Committee and on the staff of such local elected officials as Henry Waxman and Zev Yaroslavsky. Like Hirshberg, she’s an advocate of light rail for key Valley transporation corridors; she supports greater densification along some of those corridors as well. She, too, would push for a real municipal commitment to affordable housing.
Both Burman and Hirshberg would bring a good deal of insider experience and civic smarts to the job; Hirshberg, however, brings more experience as a crusader, both for reforms that have already helped the city or reforms that the city still needs realized. Burman is an attractive candidate, but her campaign has encountered some problems that suggest that Hirshberg is probably the stronger candidate. Either would be a good council member; we think Hirshberg would be the better one.
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