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
Nonpartisan observer Jaime Regalado, executive director of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs, says Ridley-Thomas’ closeness to Tyrone Freeman “doesn’t help” him, but it “doesn’t have that Velcro stick,” because other unions backing Ridley-Thomas have not been tainted. Many of those other unions, under the umbrella of the county Federation of Labor, will crank up their vast get-out-the-vote machinery using phone banks and door-to-door canvassing to promote Ridley-Thomas over Parks.
In the June primary, Ridley-Thomas edged Parks 45 percent to 40, but only 20 percent of eligible voters weighed in. Turnout is expected to be high in November, which could help either man.
Regalado argues that in a high-turnout election, the Labor Federation could be very effective at organizing the young voters and Latinos to vote for Ridley-Thomas. But Parks might also find an advantage in a high turnout: In the wake of the Wall Street credit meltdown, Parks is one of only two or three elected politicians in City Hall who actively promotes fiscal austerity, which he learned as chief of the budget-strung LAPD.
On the 15-member City Council, budget expert Parks is in a small minority that votes 13-2 or 12-3 against big-ticket items. In fact, his fiscal watchdogging is what got Parks in trouble with raise-seeking city employee unions, the SEIU and other big labor groups.
Parks now has to hope that voters are in a fiscally sensitive mood on November 4. He might benefit — but only if he can somehow communicate his belt-tightening ways to county voters, and do it without the millions that Ridley-Thomas’ labor backers will spend.
But so far, Parks seems mired in small issues that have failed to get him the “free media” coverage his underfunded campaign needed. In August, for example, Parks introduced a sweeping smoking ban at a time when the City Council had just approved other smoking restrictions. “We got rid of smoke in public buildings, parks and the farmers market,” Parks tells the Weekly. “I thought rather than going incrementally, we should look at the whole issue.”
The Ridley-Thomas campaign called it a publicity stunt. “I think it’s not coincidental that Mr. Parks has become Mr. Resolution after he came on the City Council,” says Fred MacFarlane, media adviser to Ridley-Thomas.
Then, in late September, Parks ordered the nonprofit group Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE) to vacate within 60 days a rental they get for $1 per year from the city, complaining that the group used its virtually free subsidized space to campaign for Ridley-Thomas.
That could have turned into a decent “free media” headline for Parks, had he followed through with proof that city taxpayers were indeed subsidizing backers of Ridley-Thomas — ensconced in a free city rental. But instead, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a pal of SCOPE president Anthony Thigpenn’s, got the upper hand, stopping the group’s eviction cold.
This kind of tit-for-tat has dominated the race, and Hutchinson is predicting the outcome: “Ridley-Thomas will win it, and he will win it for the wrong reasons. Money, money, money. The unions, the unions, the unions. They tipped the scales unfairly against both Parks and constituents of the 2nd District.”
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