By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Garcetti, make no mistake, hails from the rarified world of the campus left. But he’s also made himself a fixture at labor demonstrations and soccer clubs, and was last seen wowing a meeting of the supermarket clerks’ and meat cutters’ local union (which endorsed him). That is, he can talk to normal people and, in all likelihood, to City Council members, too.
As we noted, there are several stellar candidates in this race whom we’d happily endorse. The best of them, we believe, is Eric Garcetti.
15th DISTRICT — FRANK O’BRIEN
Frank O' Brien
For the past eight years, L.A.’s orphan district — starting down at the harbor in San Pedro and Wilmington and topping out in Watts — has been represented in the City ä Council by Rudy Svorinich, and it’s hard to remember how and why that is. The 15th, after all, is a solid, working-class Democratic district, more “ethnic” (that is, Southern and Eastern European) in character than any other part of town, though it’s increasingly heavily Latino as well. Svorinich, meanwhile, is a Republican, one of only two on the council, who slipped into office in the election of ’93 as the Democrats were splitting their vote. He’s been no supporter of the living-wage ordinance or a particular friend of unions, though the district maintains a lively union movement. He’s been lax on environmental standards and cleanup, and it shows.
But Svorinich will soon be history, and there’s a good likelihood that a Democrat will succeed him. There are two conservatives in the field — police lieutenant Ken Hillman, who’s running a law-’n’-order campaign, and city Rec and Parks Commissioner Robert Nizich (whom fellow Rec and Parks Commissioner Steve Soboroff must hate so much he’s endorsed Hillman). There are also three Democrats: Janice Hahn, Hector Cepeda and Frank O’Brien.
Janice Hahn is no stranger to elections in this part of town. She narrowly lost this seat to Svorinich in ’93, narrowly lost a congressional seat here to Republican Steve Kuykendall in ’98, and was elected to represent this district on the city’s Charter Reform Commission in ’97. And yes, she’s one of those Hahns — Kenny’s daughter, Jimmy’s sister. She’s also a garden-variety business Democrat. Professionally, she’s worked as a banker and, until recently, as a government-affairs liaison for the friendly folks at Southern California Edison. (Not surprisingly, she doesn’t finger SoCalEd as a culprit in the energy crisis, and reminds us that with all the pension funds invested in SCE, we don’t want anything too drastic to happen to the company.) Like her brother, Hahn is reluctant to criticize Chief Parks. She’d be a clear improvement on Rudy Svorinich, but that’s no great achievement, and the 15th has two candidates far more compelling than she.
The first is Hector Cepeda, who represents — if we’re lucky — the best possible future for L.A. politics. Cepeda was raised in the district, in the shadow of both the harbor and the Longshoremen’s Union (ILWU) — one of the most vibrant and progressive unions on the local scene. After putting himself through school, he went to work for the union, and soon became the director of the Harry Bridges Institute, the educational arm of the ILWU. At various times over the past half-decade, he’s also been a staffer for Svorinich, for liberal Democratic Assemblyman Alan Lowenthal, and for then-Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa.
Cepeda, now 33, has a keen understanding of the ways in which the harbor is intended to serve the larger business interests of the city rather than the surrounding communities; he contrasts its sprawl to other ports like Singapore, which turn around a high volume of shipping in a fraction of the space. His analysis of the LAPD is equally detailed, while his commitment to expand the scope of the living wage is exactly what the city needs. And his campaign has galvanized the ILWU and other port unions, as well as groups within the Latino community. On certain areas, his inexperience shows, but he is manifestly thoughtful on a wide range of issues affecting the city, and we have no doubt he’d make an excellent council member. Ninety-nine times out of 100, we’d endorse Cepeda forthwith.
As events would have it, however, this is that 100th, and the reason for that is Frank O’Brien. Perhaps because he was raised in the ward system of Boston, perhaps because he studied politics at the University of Chicago and planning at UCLA, for whatever reason, O’Brien is an utter rarity in Los Angeles: someone who understands in his bones all the realities and all the potentialities of city politics.
O’Brien arrived in San Pedro 15 years ago, working as director of planning for a start-up natural food business that eventually employed 150 people, and which O’Brien and the original investors sold in 1998. His work within the community has been environmental in the broadest sense. Noting that the city was utterly indifferent to maintaining the Harbor Regional Park — L.A.’s third largest — he founded the Los Angeles Recreation and Open Space Association, which secured funding for the L.A. Conservation Corps to maintain some trails and some wildlife areas within the park. He co-founded the Wilmington Citizens Committee, which cleans up streets and vacant lots. Around the time the county proposed walling the L.A. River, he became active in — for a time, he was president of — Friends of the L.A. River, where he organized the opposition to the county’s proposal.