By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
Yet even Huizar’s allies say the councilman’s first year has been rocky. Within months, he demoted his chief of staff and replaced him with Joe Avila, a veteran City Hall policy analyst best known for his scrutiny of the Department of Water and Power. Avila, a newbie in the district, quickly committed a faux pas, telling a crowd of volunteers in Glassell Park that he was thrilled to be in Eagle Rock. But Helene Schpak, a Huizar supporter who lives in Glassell Park, said the councilman is trying to turn things around.
“I was up-front with him about the fact that we didn’t think that his staff was quite up to snuff,” Schpak said. “I was there with a friend, and we were as polite as we could be about it, but we were also direct. And he said he was working on it.”
Huizar isn’t taking any chances. After Parra’s surprise entry into the race, Huizar quickly shifted into fund-raising mode, vacuuming up as much cash as possible from development interests that appear before the council’s powerful planning panel, on which Huizar is vice chairman. Huizar has already scheduled one mid-December fund-raiser with bare-knuckled land-use lobbyist Ben Reznik playing host. The event is the second $500-per-ticket fund-raiser held by Huizar at Reznik’s office this year.
Huizar has already voted in favor of one Reznik client, who is at odds with the Mount Washington Homeowners Alliance over a hillside home project. Reznik also represents Geoff Palmer, the bottom-feeding apartment builder who has refused to follow the city’s affordable-housing rules — and whose cases frequently go before Huizar’s committee.
Huizar stumbled once in a high-profile way when he carried Villaraigosa’s water on an unpopular Skid Row homeless legal settlement that would have allowed the city to legalize overnight homeless encampments in one tiny section of downtown. Councilwoman Jan Perry persuaded her colleagues to reject the settlement, telling them that they would never put up with such encampments in their own districts.
But Parra has his own problems. He hasn’t overcome a reputation as someone naive in the way of politics — which may explain his boneheaded effort to get Eli Broad to fund his wife’s 2002 school-board bid. Furthermore, even those who backed Huizar’s opponent last time aren’t ready for another change. After all, they’re still tracking the comings and goings of Huizar’s aides.
“Oh my God, practically half of his staff left,” said Rosa Rivas, who lives in the neighborhood known as Garvanza. “I don’t know if they were fired or what happened to them. So here we go, another change. And maybe that’s why projects are not finished.”
Rivas said that Huizar is finally showing up at community events, now that he has a challenger. And other longtime activists describe Parra’s candidacy as a well-timed political gift. Just as Huizar was starting to get lazy, they say, he has been forced to prove himself again. That means that even if Parra’s campaign craters, Huizar will have no choice but to be responsive — at least for now.
“He’s going to be handing out favors like lollipops,” said one community activist.