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
“One of the reasons that I’ve been opposed to some of these housing initiatives is that we’re saturated with affordable housing,” Parks said recently. “We want people to build market-rate. We want one day to walk out in the 8th District and say those homes represent $500,000 homes. Those apartments rent for four or five thousand dollars. That tells us then that the change in the representation of the community is remarkable, because there are people who can afford those rents. And you cannot keep forcing poor people into one area and then wonder why the area deteriorates.”
At a packed Housing Committee session late last year, Garcetti, Reyes and Padilla spoke passionately for the anti-big-box plan. And then Parks spoke, laying out in a long half-hour his philosophical opposition to initiatives that say no to business, and at the same time displaying his characteristic and often maddening — but strangely communicative — syntax.
“And so, when we look at this in the reality of where we live,” Parks said, “everyone has to deal with different issues. When we talk about how fragile the nature is in economic-assistance zones, yes, it’s fragile because we have crammed poor people into affordable housing and no other opportunities to ever be successful, and the greatest promotion you may think about is that you may become the fry cook instead of the counterperson at a fast-food restaurant. And so, when we look at the 8th District, we have different concerns. We are not driving out business, because business isn’t there. We are not depressing salaries, because salaries are not there . . . And so [if the ordinance is passed], we should make sure we tell every business, don’t come to our location, because we want to put sanctions on you, and limitations that you can’t be successful.”
How could the same district that elected Ridley-Thomas choose a business-oriented pol who preaches up-by-your-bootstraps conservatism? Has the 8th District gone neocon? Not completely. Parks’ pro-business stance is real, but his differences from colleagues who paint themselves as progressives often are more image than substance. Progressive firebrand Martin Ludlow backed the anti-big-box ordinance, believing it would stem the loss of union jobs. But he sounds just like Parks when complaining about the prevalence of fast-food outlets in South L.A. and the dearth of jobs that carry a chance to promote.
Los Angeles is at a crossroads that may have more to do with ethnic diversity and the blurring of racial lines than with a progressive-moderate split, and like it or not, Parks finds himself in a curious spot. He was chief for the whole city, but he remains an involuntary standard-bearer of identity politics. Since Bradley retired and later was debilitated by a stroke and then passed away, Bernard Parks has become the focus of black leadership in L.A.
The celebrity power that Bernard Parks brought to the 2003 8th District election and the massive amounts of cash he raised so completely pushed aside other candidates that it could almost be called Schwarzeneggerian. It is another matter entirely to contemplate a citywide mayoral race against an incumbent. But Hahn is vulnerable.
First, there is the Gray Davis factor. Like the ex-governor, Hahn is a competent but colorless official who has spent his whole adult life in elected office and is in charge at a time of drastic fiscal chaos. Like Davis, Hahn has tried to portray himself as tough on crime in his innermost core, and has been less than successful at carrying it off.
And, of course, Hahn’s chief successes are his biggest political weaknesses. His base was an odd pairing of South L.A., because of the legacy of his father, county Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, and the Valley, because out of all the liberal Democrats in the field, he was viewed as the most centrist in the centrist and conservative Valley. But he got rid of Parks, perhaps destroying his South L.A. base. And he led the defeat of Valley secession, perhaps destroying his other base. What’s he got left?
Parks could try to claim South L.A., but what about the rest of the city? Former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg may get in, in which case he will try to claim the Valley, and perhaps a good chunk of the Westside — and the Eastside, too, thanks to his long association with Latino leaders and his Latino wife and children. Then everyone may get in. State Senator Richard Alarcon already has said he is running. But what matters is who the two top finishers are, and which one of them has the political strength to outpoll the other in a runoff.
It just could be Parks’ year. Even if he loses, he wins. His first full council term doesn’t expire until 2007, so he wouldn’t have to give up his seat to run. Just being a candidate, he boosts his name ID, which can only help when he goes to City Hall lobbyists who want to curry favor. He can command the council opposition to Hahn over the next five years.
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