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Yet as potent as the campaign fund-raising issue is on the Westside, an equally powerful factor is Weiss’s temperament, both on the council floor and in the district. Weiss infuriated members of the Benedict Canyon Association by walking out of their regular meeting after he was confronted by residents angry over his handling of district matters.
Weiss also drew boos in Van Nuys after he protested that the public speakers at the council meeting, which is held in the Valley once a month, were taking up too much time with their testimony.
“I don’t see how you can be in public service when you have a fundamental disdain for the public, and he has disdain for the public,” said Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who has scrapped with Weiss over the years. “He’s clearly annoyed by public comment. He gets upset when they go on for more than two minutes. He has no patience for the people he governs.”
Levine, the councilman’s political consultant, argued that Weiss’s take-no-prisoners style had little to do with the discontent being fomented against him. “It’s a little hard to say it’s Jack style or Jack’s fault, since some of the people have the same gripe about the guy who was [on the council] before him, and the person there before that.
“There have always been people in the 5th District upset about development,” he added. “And the reality is, Jack acknowledges that people have certain property rights. If they own property, they’re allowed to develop it, so Jack says ‘Can we mitigate it so they do the least amount of harm.’”
Levine is correct in that anti-development ire has driven the politics of the 5th District for at least half a century. In 1965, attorney Ed Edelman — who went on to become a county supervisor before retiring from politics — ousted incumbent Councilwoman Roz Wyman, in part because of anger over high-rise development approved for Carthay Circle.
A decade later, the issue of growth helped 26-year-old former Hebrew teacher Zev Yaroslavsky squeak ahead of Wyman and make the 1975 City Council runoff election, where he defeated his opponent handily. Thirteen years later, Yaroslavsky channeled his district’s anti-development ire by spearheading Proposition U, a measure that restricted the size of buildings allowed on the city’s major boulevards.
Like Edelman before him, Yaroslavsky went on to become a county supervisor, representing much of the Westside. That move paved the way for Mike Feuer, an attorney who defeated Yaroslavsky’s wife in the runoff election. Feuer too had to confront angry questions about development in Westwood, but gave up his seat and ran unsuccessfully for city attorney.
In 2001, Feuer was replaced by Weiss, a federal prosecutor who defeated state Senator Tom Hayden, a politician with much greater name ID. Weiss portrayed himself as part of a new era of post-term-limits politicians at City Hall. Weiss — behaving a bit like New York Governor Eliot Spitzer or former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani — soon showed that he relished a fight, alienating colleagues and constituents alike.
Eveloff agreed that development has been a long-standing issue for the district’s constituents. But he argued that Weiss set himself apart from his predecessors. “The prior council person submitted tough questions to developers as part of the [environmental] process. Jack has not,” Eveloff said. “The prior council person would make time to meet with community leaders. Jack does not. The prior council person would not only meet with them, but engage the issues and maybe even change his mind sometimes. Not true for Jack.”
He added: “Every time people are stuck in traffic, they need to understand why it’s happening. And they should ask Jack.”
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