Our recommendations in the March 4 Los Angeles municipal election



2nd District — No Endorsement

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In the 11 months since she was elected to succeed council veterano Joel Wachs in this meandering Studio City–to–Tujunga district, Wendy Greuel has proved herself one of the council’s more diligent members. She’s played a forward-looking role in planning issues, recognizing that L.A. needs denser development along its transit corridors. (In such matters, denser is smarter.) It remains to be seen how she will respond to forthcoming efforts to require developers needing city approval to build affordable housing. Indeed, Greuel is turning out to be more conservative than some of her supporters in last year’s special election — this paper among them — had thought.

In particular, we’re disappointed that Greuel opposed the council’s resolution that put the city on record against unilateral war in Iraq. Greuel argued that the city should not properly involve itself in matters of foreign policy, yet she herself signed on to a Jack Weiss resolution last April deploring Palestinian terrorism and offering support to the peace processes pursued by the U.S. and Israeli governments. (Would that such processes actually existed.) Greuel now says that she wouldn’t support such a measure again, and we suppose that belated consistency is better than selective myopia.

4th District — Tom LaBonge

It should come as no surprise that Tom LaBonge, who succeeded the late John Ferraro in a special election 15 months ago, is the pothole-filling and tree-planting councilman par excellence. The former longtime aide to Ferraro and Mayor Richard Riordan comes close to knowing every alley in his Hancock Park–to–North Hollywood district; and the regard in which he holds the late Kenny Hahn — the legendary, constituent-serving county supe whom he called L.A.’s "greatest public servant" during his interview with the Weekly editorial board — makes his political pedigree very clear. But LaBonge has also demonstrated a more expansive and enlightened sense of the potential of city government than many had expected — in particular, by his commitment to neighborhood involvement in planning processes, and by his understanding that the city can be an important voice in conveying Angelenos’ stance on matters of war and peace. We’re not sure where that leaves LaBonge on issues that don’t galvanize the public, but he clearly deserves another four years to show us.

6th District — No Endorsement

Long a district situated on the south end of the Westside (or the west end of the south side, take your pick), this formerly Venice-Westchester-Crenshaw district wasn’t growing much over the past decade, even as the population of the Latino-ized east San Fernando Valley was booming. In the most recent reapportionment, then, the City Council took the district, and its term-limited incumbent, Ruth Galanter, and plunked them both down in the middle of the east Valley.

The one serious candidate to succeed Galanter is Tony Cardenas, himself just term-limited out of the state Assembly. As chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, Cardenas provided a major boost to after-school programs. As a candidate, he has also pledged to expand the funds in the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund to a cool billion dollars — though at a time when budgets are hemorrhaging at every level of government, it’s not clear how seriously he takes his own proposal.

One thing Cardenas has always taken very seriously is amassing a war chest to elect his friends and dispatch his opponents by all means possible (including playing the race card). Cardenas was the go-to guy for Indian casino interests in Sacramento, which is why they funded a series of scurrilous ads in the 2001 mayoral race against Antonio Villaraigosa (who had refused to back Cardenas’ bid to succeed him as Assembly speaker). Cardenas’ long-standing friendship with developer James Acevedo and their cultivation of an east Valley machine will, we fear, top the list of Cardenas’ priorities when he takes office.

Cardenas’ opponent, Jose Roy Garcia, is the founder and president of a successful youth soccer league, but his lack of familiarity with city issues and his immersion in the cause of Valley secession make him an unsuitable alternative to Cardenas. We’re left making no endorsement in this race.

8th District — Sherri Franklin

Mark Ridley-Thomas is not only term-limited out of this South-Central district; he has already been elected to and taken his seat in the state Assembly. The lopsided contest to succeed him is dominated by former Los Angeles Police Chief Bernie Parks — unceremoniously dumped by Mayor Hahn last year — now plotting his return to the halls of government with an unvoiced strategic plan that is nonetheless almost audible: Today, the council; tomorrow, the Mayor’s Office.

In many ways, Parks the candidate is a pleasant surprise, and nothing’s more pleasant than his emphasis on education and after-school programs as the most important ways that government can reduce crime. He is, however, still defending the LAPD against the dread specter of greater civilian control, and dismissive of the policies recommended by the Christopher Commission for being at once outmoded and long since enacted (in truth, some of them are neither). Worse, Parks’ economic vision could have been cooked up by the Chamber of Commerce in a grouchy mood. He fears that L.A.’s rent controls make it impossible for landlords to get a decent return on their investments; he complains that the merchants of Leimert Park are too invested in their boutique atmospherics and not sufficiently attuned to maximizing profit; his support for the living wage doesn’t extend beyond construction workers to employees of retail establishments in city-assisted developments. We can only hope that campaigning for office broadens Parks’ economic horizons — and that, once elected to a legislative body, he can make the necessary transition from command-and-control to compromise-and-cajole.

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