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
As in the 10th, two progressive candidates are also in the hunt, but here, the difference between the two is more pronounced. Longtime school-board member Julie Korenstein has at times been an important impediment to the Riordanization of the LAUSD, but as a City Council candidate she seems surprisingly at sea when it comes to understanding the problems of the 12th, much less any solutions. (Her vagueness on the Sunshine Canyon Landfill is genuinely stunning.)
The clear choice in the 12th is Rob Vinson, an aspiring affordable-housing developer and environmental activist. Vinson has built a tract of 14 low-cost and family-size homes in Panorama City, throwing in a child-care center for good measure. He favors boosting local hiring from merely a goal that developers must show a good-faith effort to have met to a real standard that they must meet to win approval for their project. It’s an open question whether Vinson would have the street smarts to steer his idealist visions to enactment once on the council, but the city would be better just for his making the fight.Villaraigosa: eyeing the Mayor’s office Photo by Debra DiPaolo 14th District — Antonio Villaraigosa
The race between Antonio Villaraigosa and incumbent Nick Pacheco for this Eastside, Boyle Heights–to–Highland Park seat is the most important contest on the March ballot. Its outcome will likely determine the course of city government and the direction of Latino and Democratic politics in Los Angeles for at least the next four years.
Coming up on the halfway point of his four-year term as mayor, Jim Hahn has some genuine achievements under his belt — the creation of the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the defeat of secession at the polls last November — but as yet, his has not been a very creative mayoralty. Nonetheless, it far outshines the City Council over the past couple of years. The legislative body that produced one of the nation’s pioneering living-wage ordinances just a few years ago has often become distressingly parochial. There are progressive members of the City Council, but on a number of occasions they have been unable to constitute a majority on important questions. Which is just one reason why the election of Villaraigosa is so important: It would re-instill a sense of momentum to progressive L.A., and place the leader of that movement right in the middle of city government.
By challenging one-term incumbent Pacheco for the right to represent the 14th, Villaraigosa is violating one of the axioms of government-by-term-limits: Don’t go after an incumbent; wait just one more term and the seat will be open. By some measures, Pacheco’s performance has been anything but a disaster. He often votes for the progressive position, but he never takes the lead in such matters (and on the recent anti-war resolution, he absented himself from the first vote, which, but for Jan Perry’s flakiness, would have passed without his having to commit himself). By backing Hahn over Villaraigosa in the 2001 mayor’s race, Pacheco guaranteed that the new mayor would fill every pothole in the district in record time. Pacheco’s no stranger to deal making with mayors. While on the charter-reform commission, he voted Riordan’s way to win the then-mayor’s support for his first council bid (and, once on the council, opposed the consent decree so long as Riordan did).
Pacheco also played a role in establishing the city’s Housing Trust Fund, but he argues that his own constituents have little interest in any new affordable housing. They want cops on the beat and streets without potholes, and his mission as a council member, he insists, is basically to provide them. In a district with a mind-boggling array of needs, this is a modest agenda indeed.
Pacheco is most notable, of course, for helping to wage some of the most slime-filled campaigns since Sam Yorty vilified Tom Bradley. In the mayoral contest two years ago, his political machine had a Gloria Molina impersonator phone voters with a message attacking Villaraigosa. His current campaign got off with a bang when a longtime Pacheco pal sent out letters that assailed Villaraigosa’s personal life; it took Pacheco the better part of a week to repudiate the attack. Currently, he is caught up in a scandal brought about by his funneling city funds to the same group of people who are waging a campaign on his behalf. Politics for Pacheco is about rewarding friends and punishing enemies by any means possible. Los Angeles deserves, and needs, better politics than that.
Villaraigosa’s record is strong. The onetime union organizer and ACLU official served as Assembly speaker in the late ’90s. In that post, he not only authored and steered to passage the biggest school-construction and park bonds in state history, he also ensured that they provided a fair share of the funding for historically underfunded inner cities. Since the mayor’s race, Villaraigosa has campaigned alongside Hahn against secession. He’s worked to develop a bio-med research park near USC and, more broadly, a green-technologies economic-development strategy for the city. As the person who, during his mayoral run, infused the idea of an affordable-housing trust fund into L.A.’s civic discourse, and as an early champion of an expansive living-wage policy for the city, he can be counted upon to renew those campaigns while on the council. Above all, a Villaraigosa victory portends a renewal of the crosstown progressive politics that Los Angeles — a city that’s chronically prey to racial divisions and class disparities — can ill do without. L.A. needs Villaraigosa on the council, and we strongly support his candidacy.