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
Hey, Bernie, the Clippers Won
Over at the Biltmore, in a ground-floor room, Bernard Parks’ supporters were less focused on the impending returns than on having a good time. A DJ set up near the podium spun various grooves, from Wave-type jazz to modified hip-hop; good music helped everyone forget that their man was already fourth in the exit polls, as well as the facts that the booze cost money and the cheese and veggie munchies ran out early, about 9:30. One man, named Tom, seemed typical of a Parks fan — he’d voted for the ex–police chief, even believed in him, but had no illusions that he would make the runoff. Tom predicted triumph for Villaraigosa; like most people gathered there, he was African-American. “In South L.A. there are so many more Hispanics now than there are of us,” he said half-disdainfully, half-wistfully. “They won’t vote for us. It’s not at all how it used to be.”
His nostalgia was interrupted by Parks’ first appearance at the mike, which was met with sustained cheers. His wife and confidante/consigliere, Bobbie, stood at his side, resplendent in a hot-pink outfit and coordinating scarf. Under an arc of red, white and blue balloons, her unflappable husband thanked everybody for coming, encouraged them to keep their eye on the numbers, predicted success and then exited the stage as swiftly as he’d taken it. One woman, sporting a silver baseball cap, who’d been straining to hear, shook her head. “What’d he say? I didn’t get a word of it,” she muttered. “I heard he’s last in the returns right now, but you wouldn’t know it to hear him talk.” She shrugged.
The room got emptier as the night wore on. Before Parks returned to the podium close to midnight, he got a glowing introduction from his old LAPD Deputy Commander David Gascon, who praised Parks for his “leadership, leadership, leadership” and scolded Hahn for his kowtowing to unions and melting down in ethics scandals. Parks stood at the entrance of the room, waiting his turn to go up, looking the smallest bit impatient; in a demonstration of what surely has been happening throughout the whole campaign, Bobbie reached up and flicked a bit of dust off the shoulder of Parks’ suit, getting him as camera-ready as possible. Parks’ second address to the crowd was longer, with lots more details about exactly why the city is floundering and why Mayor Hahn is unfit for office; his best-turned phrase was saying Hahn’s efforts to form a new ethics committee “would be like putting Fat Albert on a diet.” Oh, and Parks also said that he’d increased his vote tally by 3 percent, though no one was entirely clear where that percentage was. Let’s just say it didn’t qualify as success, not yet. “I heard it was only 13 percent — is that all?” cried one disappointed woman, who said she’d had to cajole a poll worker into letting her vote just before quitting time, at 8 o’clock. “I feel bad for Parks. It takes a lot of money to run a campaign, you know.”
For the record, there were no big guns at the Parks shindig — no Maxine Waters, Diane Watson, Yvonne Burke or prominent ministers in town. The crowd seemed not to notice, or care. The question on everyone’s lips was not how Parks was doing, but how the Lakers had done (they lost to the Clippers). “It’s not important, it’s just a diversion,” said one partygoer, almost sheepishly, about his interest in the game. “It’s not life.”
And Parks will not be mayor, though for the throng at the Biltmore, that’s hardly the end of the world.
Friends of Bill
As an open race, the 11th District contest was the only one that was not an incumbent cakewalk, and it became a steam valve for pent-up Westside frustrations. Many of Bill Rosendahl’s 150 supporters who crowded into the patio and bar areas of Jerry’s Famous Deli in Marina del Rey were irate over Jim Hahn’s LAX expansion plans, others were aggrieved by traffic congestion and runaway development, and some bristled with memories of what they said were slights by termed-out Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski.
Rosendahl up close looks like an unstoppable campaigner. Tall, tanned and quick with a grin, he is an unsleeping juggernaut, one big handshake extended to the city. Former Mayor Dick Riordan had come and gone by 10:30 p.m., but the evening was still young. The election results trickled in painfully slow, almost vote by vote, but they continually showed Rosendahl in the lead, though headed for a runoff with Flora Gil Krisiloff. Isabel Kayser, an elderly woman sitting in a booth drinking coffee and wearing a jean jacket with fur trim, had begun this day as a polling-place volunteer in Pacific Palisades. “When I moved to Pacific Palisades in the 1950s,” she said, “there were about 12 Democrats living there.”
Ruth Galanter, Miscikowski’s predecessor on the council, sat down with us. One of the things that won Galanter over to Rosendahl was his open mind. “He does think about what people say to him,” Galanter said. “He’s pragmatic and a dreamer.”
When I asked Rosendahl where his district strongholds were, he said, “It depends on the Bill Rosendahl you’re talking to. There are a great number of people who know me in Pacific Palisades and Brentwood from my cable TV program. I’ve taken a strong position on LAX and have won Republican support in Westchester and support from people fed up with Playa Vista and with Cindy Miscikowski shoving it down our throats. I’m a leader, I’m a guy who can build a coalition. The people need a leader. The people are fed up. I see myself as a vessel of the people’s will.”
Around midnight, Rosendahl thanked his supporters and encouraged them to go home, especially with the ballot-bearing helicopters grounded by fog. By a little after 1 a.m., most of the friends of Bill had left, and Rosendahl sat in a booth talking with his campaign manager, Mike Bonin, and consultant Parke Skelton. On my way out, I asked who, if he was elected, would Rosendahl feel most comfortable working with as mayor — whenever the vote figures changed on the big screen, Rosendahl’s supporters gave the biggest cheers to Antonio Villaraigosa’s numbers.
“I’d be representing the district,” Rosendahl demurred. “My personal beliefs don’t matter, because I would not be a private citizen.” A very pragmatic answer, to be sure.