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.
Shootout on the West Side
By 10 p.m., it became clear to the 100-plus supporters of 11th council district candidate Flora Gil Krisiloff that she would face two more months of campaigning.
But the reality of a runoff didn’t spoil the fun in the lounge on the top floor of the LAX Radisson Hotel. “It is because of you — the people,” said Krisiloff, flanked by her husband, Milton, and sons. “The city will be so much better because I will be all of your voices.”
Last week, the campaign took a nasty turn when Krisiloff accused Rosendahl of conducting a whisper campaign that she was anti-gay. “It has been going on for over a year under the radar,” she said. She also launched two attack mailers, one accusing Rosendahl of being “City Hall’s top lobbyist” for Adelphia cable television.
“Facts are not attacks,” said Krisiloff between congratulatory pats on the back. “I don’t think what went on in the last week was dirty campaigning. What I was representing was factual.”
As a jazz band played, the termed-out incumbent, Cindy Miscikowski, who had just hit Controller Laura Chick’s soiree, as well as Mayor Hahn’s bash at the Conga Room, made her rounds of the room decorated with Flora2005.com multicolored balloons and campaign posters. She stopped for a coffee at the crowded bar. “Flora is a candidate who can represent this district and work with everyone to get good decisions out there. She is very levelheaded. You don’t hear that often about an elected official. She has a real inner strength.” Miscikowski said she hasn’t decided what she plans to do when she is termed out of office in four months. “I am in denial,” she added. “I hope to still contribute to the city.”
While Miscikowski sipped her coffee, L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky arrived to give his support. “She has run a tough and thorough campaign and has made an impression on the district. She is the real deal. She is smart and committed to the community and has worked her way from the ground up. She knows a hell of a lot more about land use than I did when I became a councilperson. The community can depend on her.”
Only a dozen stragglers remained after midnight. “I came from nowhere,” said a smiling Krisiloff. “I had no name recognition, and now I am neck and neck. In the next couple of months it will become clear who Bill is and who I am. I have faith in the people, that in the end they will want to know who they are electing.”
Get Back to Work
The Los Angeles City Council looked, the day after Election Day, pretty much the same as it did the day before. Bernard Parks will be sticking around, having come up short in the mayoral derby. Antonio Villaraigosa will still be trying to leave, as he gears up for his May 17 mayoral runoff. Each of the seven incumbents up for re-election was re-elected. In the 11th District, where Cindy Miscikowski was termed out, Bill Rosendahl or Flora Gil Krisiloff face a runoff.
Now maybe the council can get back to work. But don’t bet on it. Much remains in flux as members wait to see who will be elected mayor in May. In the two months before then, they will face a tough budget process in a year that promises to present a staggering $300 million structural deficit. They’ll have to grapple with whatever cuts current Mayor Jim Hahn sends them, while trying to make good on — or hope everyone already forgot — their promises to find money for hiring new police officers.
Meanwhile, with Villaraigosa still on the council, at least until the new city year starts on July 1, and with council President Alex Padilla counting votes for his presidential re-election run, how much work can really be accomplished in the next eight weeks?
“All these council members who have been campaigning have really been neglecting their job,” Councilwoman Janice Hahn said Tuesday at her brother’s mayoral-campaign party. “It’s tough to campaign and do your job.”
Not that she had to. Janice Hahn, who represents an area reaching north from the harbor to Watts, was one of three council members who got a free pass into a second (and final) four-year term, having drawn no ballot opposition. Eric Garcetti was in the same club, and spent the re-election season registering voters in his Hollywood–to–Glassell Park district. Padilla cruised to easy victory in his east Valley district over a write-in challenger.
Dennis Zine easily overcame a challenge from Jeff Bornstein in his west Valley district.
Three races that could have been interesting weren’t. Ed Reyes avoided a runoff in his Pico-Union–to–Lincoln Heights district, beating both an ex-staffer of his, Ernest Sanchez, and an unhappy constituent, Stephen Sarinana-Lampson.
Jan Perry also won four more years, in her downtown–to–South L.A. district, without a runoff, beating police Officer Peter Torres, who made a run for the seat a decade ago, and Eddie Reyes, a neighborhood-council activist.
Jack Weiss hangs onto his Westside-Valley seat with less trouble than expected from challengers David Tyrone Vahedi and Gregory Martayan.
Half of the 15-member council was up for election this year. Elections for the other half take place in 2007.
Speaking at Jim Hahn’s election party at the Conga Room on the Miracle Mile, Councilman Tom LaBonge said the council would be able to pull itself together even after the stress caused by the mayor’s race, with two councilmen challenging Hahn.
“Council Member Parks has a very strong feeling about how he sees the world,” LaBonge said. “Antonio’s a politician, he’s been through it before. I come from a big family. I got seven brothers, so I fought my whole life, but [we] always loved each other at the end of the day, because that’s what our parents taught us.”
One More Time, Rocky
City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo won another four years at the city’s second highest electoral post and spent election night hitting the other candidates’ parties. At Jim Hahn’s Conga Room bash, Delgadillo had fun being coy about speculation that he will run for state attorney general next year.
“Are you going to be city attorney for the next four years?” he was asked.
“I’m going to protect the residents of the city of Los Angeles, and I’m going to work on that every day,” he said.
“For four years?”
“As long as it takes,” he said. “I’m going to work to protect the residents of the city of Los Angeles.”
“Are you going to serve out your term?”
“I’m going to, again, protect the residents of the city of Los Angeles for as long as I can,” he said. “And as long as I’m doing a good job. And as long as they’ll have me.”
Wheels of Democracy
A fleet of stretch limos are lined up outside the campaign headquarters of Peter Torres. The longshot candidate for City Council in the 9th District spent his last $2,000 on these fancy wheels to lure would-be voters who need a ride to the polls. However, reality requires an adjustment. “Most people won’t be home until after 5 p.m.,” says Torres, sheepish but looking sharp in his navy-blue suit, light-blue shirt and gold tie. “We’re going to re-assess.”
He sends back all of the limos except the one that will drive slowly behind him for the next nine hours, as he knocks on doors from Watts to South-Central to Little Tokyo and Bunker Hill. “We can bring them back tonight and try again,” he says gamely.
The 38-year-old Torres did not sleep last night. He’s lost 10 pounds. He remains calm — even when he later discovers that someone has ripped the central phone line to his campaign headquarters from the circuit box out on San Pedro Avenue.
He climbs into the limo, which heads south on San Pedro. Behind the wheel is Samuel “Cashdro” Lee, an aspiring record producer who bears a striking resemblance to former Minnesota Twins slugger Kirby Puckett. Pedestrians gawk at the limo, with its “Torres for City Council” signs in Spanish. A senior lead officer in Newton Division, Torres gets cell-phone calls from his friends in the LAPD who have spotted him.
At Torres’ instruction, Lee stops at 24th Street, 32nd Street, 85th Street, 92nd Street and 93rd Street. Each time, Torres jumps out and, clutching a list of registered voters, begins to knock on doors, walking numerous blocks as Lee keeps the motor running. Silvia Rodriguez says she would like to shower first but ends up accepting Torres’ offer of a ride to the nearby poll on South Maple Avenue. On 92nd Street, a Latino tells Torres that he already voted for Eddie Reyes, the other challenger, because he looked younger in his photo. An elderly woman with a Jan Perry sign on her lawn tells Torres she is impressed by his shoe-leather approach to campaigning. She will vote for him, she says, and he can take the Perry sign off her lawn if he wants.
Lee is not registered to vote in Los Angeles, but he too likes what he sees. A former member of the East Coast Crips from the Aliso Village projects in Boyle Heights, he went straight long ago. He’s seen his share of politicians in the rearview mirror of his limo. This is the first time he’s been hired to follow someone door-to-door. By now, Torres has pulled a block and a half ahead. Lee, parked under a shade tree on 93rd, gazes at the candidate and says: “A man on a mission.”