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MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA
Photos by Debra DiPaolo
In the next couple of weeks, Los Angeles can make some history.
Now, were no strangers to making history here in L.A. Los Angeles, after all, is the only American city to have had two cataclysmic riots over the past half century.
But this is different. Were talking the kind of history in which a city can take pride. The kind of history that New York made 68 years ago when it elected Fiorello LaGuardia as its mayor and fundamentally redefined what a city can do to better the lives of its residents. The kind of history that Los Angeles made 28 years ago when it elected Tom Bradley and tossed out the Whites Only sign that had hung over the mayors office and barred the doors to the citys governing councils.
The opportunity to make that kind of history doesnt roll around very often, which is what makes the June 5 election for mayor so uncommonly important. On that date, we can have our own version actually, our own combination of both a LaGuardia and a Bradley moment, in one days vote turning Los Angeles into the most dynamic center of progressive change in the nation and the place where a vast new population is first fully assimilated into a governing coalition.
Call it, if you will, our Villaraigosa moment.
The election of Antonio Villaraigosa as mayor of L.A. will have a transforming effect on this city. It will mean the forces that have worked to diminish working-class poverty the janitors, the living-wage activists, the new generation of social-gospel clergy will have their foremost tribune in the mayors office. It will mean that the groups that have been trying to green the city the neighborhood activists seeking to block the overdevelopment of Playa Vista, the troublemakers who just won the fight to turn the Cornfield into a riverside park, the visionaries who want to re-naturalize the L.A. River will have their leading advocate in City Hall. It will mean that the affordable-housing activists and the police-reform crusaders will have a mayor whos not just a friend but a longtime champion of their causes. It will mean that neighborhoods that City Hall has treated as colonies will have a community organizer as mayor, building neighborhood councils with more than just advisory powers. It will mean that a whole breed of urban visionaries to whom City Hall now pays as little heed as possible people like Lewis MacAdams from Friends of the L.A. River, transit-corridor advocate Nick Patsaouras, and a raft of planners, designers and preservationists from SCI-Arc and kindred institutions will have a hand in shaping the next L.A.
Villaraigosa will bring to the mayors office a can-do spirit that has always characterized American progressivism at its best. He will shake up the civic order a bit to make this a more livable city. Unlike his opponent, hes willing to legislate a fee on major developments to fund affordable housing. Unlike his opponent, hes willing to condition city and redevelopment assistance to major employers on their agreeing to pay their employees a living wage.
More than just spirit, though, Villaraigosa has a can-do record. As speaker of the Assembly, Villaraigosa successfully cajoled the legislature into placing on the ballot the largest bond measures for school construction and urban parks in the history of the state, then steered them to enactment at the polls. He established the first affordable-housing trust fund in state history, and prodded then-Governor Pete Wilson to expand a health-insurance program for the children of Californias working poor. In all instances, he reached across the aisle to incorporate Republican ideas when they did not violate core progressive principles, not because he needed the votes the Democrats controlled the legislature under his speakership but to build a firmer societal consensus for important policy changes.
That record and that spirit are key to Villaraigosas support, not just from labor and environmentalists, but from Mayor Riordan, business leaders, the Republican leadership in Sacramento and homeowner groups in the Valley. They, and we, are impressed by his dynamism, his charisma, his commitment to inclusion and his fierce dedication to social justice. As Los Angeles prepares to vote, Antonio Villaraigosa has emerged as the most persuasive, gifted, compelling political leader the city has had in a very long time perhaps ever.
By electing Jim Hahn mayor, the city would stir momentarily from its Riordan-time civic nap, roll over and fall immediately back to sleep.
Jim Hahn, lets stipulate up-front, is a decent guy and a mainstream Democrat, a modest man of modest virtues. But his four years as city controller and 16 years as city attorney have been marked less by notable achievements than by a dont-rock-the-boat mentality, by a slow, imperceptible absorption into the citys permanent government of lobbyists, developers, attorneys and police.
In his years as city attorney, Hahn obtained a number of gang injunctions, and joined several notably successful civil suits against gun and tobacco manufacturers. But his sins of omission have been major, and legion. Hes been MIA on such environmental flashpoints as Playa Vista and the Cornfield, sites that the permanent government was determined to develop. Most crucially, for 16 years, Hahn has been the official charged with representing police officers in misconduct suits. The LAPD being what it is, he was compelled to recommend repeated settlements in cases brought against the same officers, but he never once bestirred himself to report those problem officers to the department. In the Rodney King convulsions of a decade ago, it was Hahn who devised the way to reinstate Daryl Gates as chief after Tom Bradleys police commission had suspended him laying the groundwork, however inadvertently, for the 1992 riot. In the Rampart scandal, Hahn has repeatedly reaffirmed his faith in Bernie Parks commitment to reform, though Parks opposition to civilian control of the department has been constant and clear. No one in city government has been better situated to clean up the LAPD than Hahn, and no one has shirked that duty more consistently than he.
In an odd way, Hahn himself is not really integral to his appeal to voters. His campaign rests on two pillars: public affection for his father, the late, legendary County Supervisor Kenny Hahn; and public anxiety over Villaraigosa, which was negligible to begin with, but which Hahns campaign has been determined to stoke by any means necessary. Accordingly, Hahns commercials accuse Villaraigosa of being soft on crime, a charge thats based on deliberately misconstruing votes Villaraigosa cast in the Legislature.
There is one constituency in the city to which Hahn himself actually matters. The lobbyists and deal-makers of the ancien régime back Hahn, attorney George Kieffer has noted approvingly, because he would not surprise them with his viewpoint or behavior. In a Hahn City Hall, the operatives of the permanent government will renew their lease on power. Be still, our beating hearts.
Villaraigosa, by contrast, personifies the advent of a new urban political order in America though in many ways the new order looks a lot like the one that emerged a century ago in New York and other Eastern cities. In the early years of the last century, before the coming of an activist federal government, New York home, as L.A. is now, to a huge wave of immigrants, to poverty, sweatshops and overcrowding passed laws banning child labor, setting workplace conditions, establishing minimum wages. Widely derided at the time, these measures later became the basis for much of the New Deal.
Now its Los Angeles that is the immigrants mecca, that has the greatest number of working poor and medically uninsured of any American city. And, as in the years before the New Deal, the federal government is once again supremely uninterested in the living conditions of the urban poor. Like his forebears in the last century, then, Antonio Villaraigosa is posing a variant of Hillels first question: If we are not for ourselves, who shall be for us? He knows that, at times, solutions must begin at home, that a local experiment like the living-wage ordinance can produce a better city, and in time prod a state and a nation to follow suit.
Across America today, progressives are looking to Los Angeles in the hope that Villaraigosa can be elected, that a new Los Angeles can address the injustices that Washington only worsens or ignores, and in time prod a nation to follow suit. The June 5 election is shaping up as extremely close. But its an even-money bet that we can make some history here on that day the kind of history that people look back on decades later and say, That was the day we said all of us govern here. That was the day we laid claim to our city.
CITY ATTORNEY MIKE FEUER
Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Feuer is not simply the best-qualified candidate for city attorney in this years election. So far as we can figure, hes the best-qualified candidate for city attorney in the citys history.
A Harvard Law grad, Feuer first made a name for himself running the Bet Tzedek Legal Services Agency, which became under his leadership the number-one nemesis of L.A.s slumlords. In 1995, Feuer was elected to succeed Zev Yaroslavsky as the council member from the 5th District. There, he strengthened the citys Ethics Commission, authored landmark gun-control measures, and led the fight to enforce the laws restricting the size and placement of billboards one reason why the billboard industry is so lavishly funding his opponents campaign. His record of support for police reform long antedates the departments Rampart follies.
His opponent, deputy mayor Rocky Delgadillo, has led a storybook life, going from East L.A.s Franklin High to Harvard, the Canadian Football League, Columbia Law, and the law firm of OMelveny and Myers. One of the original crew at Rebuild L.A., he went to work for Mayor Riordan in 1994, eventually serving as deputy mayor for economic development. Delgadillo has made schools the centerpiece of his campaign for office, though he has virtually nothing to say about what a city attorney can do that actually would impact the schools.
It was clear to us early on that this choice was a slam-dunk for Feuer, but now a Weekly investigation into Delgadillos record (see the special report by Howard Blume and Dave Perera elsewhere in this issue) suggests to us that Delgadillo is ethically unfit to hold the city-attorney position at all. The report documents that Delgadillos economic-development office essentially inflated the number of jobs it helped create, and engaged in a pattern of backroom dealmaking that directly benefited well-connected developers, but not necessarily the public interest. The report further documents that corporate donors to the Genesis LA project, which Delgadillo spearheaded, have been rewarded with favored positions in Genesis-backed shopping centers. And it documents that a number of the developers to whom Delgadillo gave preferential treatment have been friends or backers of the mayor. One veteran city official calls Delgadillo a walking conflict of interest because of his close ties to companies with business before or litigation against the city. We believe that Rocky Delgadillo lacks the basic ethical sensitivity that is the entry-level requirement for city attorney.
Mike Feuer, by contrast, is as ethically unblemished as Delgadillo is ethically challenged. He will make a great city attorney.
MEMBER OF THE COUNCIL
3rd DISTRICT JUDITH HIRSHBERG
Laura Chick is term-limited out of this southwest San Fernando Valley district, where voters now must choose between a candidate in the Chick moderate-Democratic mold and another who would signal a clear shift to the right on some fundamental city issues.
The candidate personifying this right-face is Dennis Zine, an LAPD sergeant and longtime stalwart of the Police Protective League. Zine opposes the consent decree between the LAPD and the federal government. In a city still struggling to assert civilian control over its police, his election would be a big step backward.
His opponent, Judith Hirshberg, was a longtime Valley staffer for both Tom Bradley and Marvin Braude. Shes also long been active in community groups, and as a leader in the National Womens Political Caucus; shes a strong proponent of greater gender equity in the LAPD. Shed be an excellent addition to the City Council.
5th DISTRICT TOM HAYDEN
Voters in this Westside-to-mid-Valley district have a choice this June between two very able candidates one a mainstream Democrat whos just starting his career, the other a progressive Democrat whos already won a page in the history books, but whose energy and commitment to social change remain undimmed.
Mainstream Democrat Jack Weiss, a federal prosecutor, is committed to expanding gun control and to the kinds of ethics-in-government initiatives that incumbent Mike Feuer has undertaken. In contradistinction to his opponent, he takes more of a wait and see position on the mega development at Playa Vista. On questions like living-wage policy and a host of other issues that matter greatly to less affluent Angelenos, Weiss admits to no special experience or expertise. And it happens that theres another candidate in the race with a vast amount of experience, expertise and zeal on those and a host of other issues: Tom Hayden.
During his 18 years in the state Legislature, Hayden was an accomplished lawmaker with a constant priority of making L.A. more livable. With Antonio Villaraigosa, he ensured that last years state-parks bond would fund parks throughout the city. Responding to the Belmont debacle, he authored the Parents Right To Know Act, which mandates public disclosure of the condition of school sites. Hes been a consistent advocate for open space at Playa Vista, on the banks of the L.A. River and all across town. Perhaps most notable has been his work with gang members and former gang members helping to broker truces, and developing training and job programs to get them off the streets. Hayden will not be intimidated by the phobias that keep other elected officials from scrutinizing the war-on-gangs programs that have led us to the Rampart scandal. We strongly recommend his election.
9th DISTRICT JAN PERRY
The more reliably progressive candidate in this downtown-to-South-Central district is probably Assembly Member Carl Washington, who is also, alas, one of the Legislatures dimmest bulbs. (He once actually traded a vote on-mike to repeal a smoking ban, no less during a committee meeting.) His opponent, Jan Perry, has served as chief of staff for outgoing incumbent Rita Walters, and in the early 90s was a planning deputy for Mike Woo. Though Perry espouses mainstream liberal positions, she was no fan of the living-wage ordinance when it was still before the council, and is often a staunch ally of downtown business interests. In the end, though, we think it will be easier to improve Jan Perrys politics than raise Carl Washingtons intelligence.
13th DISTRICT ERIC GARCETTI
Incumbent Jackie Goldberg was elected to the state Assembly last November, and both candidates who emerged from the April primary to succeed her are exceptionally intelligent progressives in their own right.
Mike Woo ably and, at times, courageously represented this district on the council for eight years (1985 to 1993), then lost the 93 mayoral election to Richard Riordan. Woo authored the legislation legalizing street vendors and banning the LAPD from turning undocumented immigrants over to the INS. In the wake of the Rodney King beating, Woo was the one council member to call for Daryl Gates firing.
In the years since his loss to Riordan, Woo has run the regional office of Americorps and become director of the local office of LISC, a key funder for nonprofit housing developers. Organizers say Woos help was indispensable in starting up the campaign for an affordable-housing trust fund. But while were sure about Woos smarts, were not entirely sure about his backbone, and his willingness to play hardball with banks if theyre cool to the notion of imposing fees on developments to fund affordable housing.
Eric Garcetti is a novice at electoral politics. The son of former District Attorney Gil Garcetti is a 30-year-old Rhodes scholar whos a political-science professor at Occidental College and USC, and a globetrotting activist in the cause of human rights, womens rights and environmental preservation. On the cops, Garcetti endorses not just a civilian-review board, but an independent authority to take complaints at the station-house level. He can rattle off the 41 brown-field sites in the district, specify which ones can be rehabilitated as pocket parks, and outline how they could link up to form at least a quasi greenbelt.
Two stellar candidates wed happily endorse the better of whom, we believe, is Eric Garcetti.
15th DISTRICT HECTOR CEPEDA
Republican Rudy Svorinich will soon be history in this harbor-to-Watts district, and a Democrat will succeed him in office. Like so many races in this years runoff, the contest pits a mainstream Democrat against a progressive one in this instance, Janice Hahn against Hector Cepeda.
Janice Hahn daughter of Kenny, sister of Jim is no stranger to elections in this part of town, having narrowly lost this seat to Svorinich in 93, and narrowly lost a congressional race here as well. Shes a garden-variety business Democrat, who until recently worked as a government-affairs liaison for the friendly folks at Southern California Edison. Shed be a clear improvement on Rudy Svorinich, but thats no great achievement.
After putting himself through school, harbor homeboy Hector Cepeda went to work for the vibrant, progressive Longshoremens Union and soon became the director of the Harry Bridges Institute, the unions educational arm. Hes also been a staffer for Svorinich, and for Democratic Assemblymen Alan Lowenthal and Antonio Villaraigosa.
Cepeda, now 33, has a keen understanding of the ways in which the harbor has been made to serve larger business interests rather than those of the surrounding communities; he contrasts its sprawl to that of other ports, such as Singapore, which turn around a high volume of shipping in a fraction of the space. His analysis of the LAPD is equally detailed, while his commitment to expanding the scope of the living wage is exactly what the city needs. Hed make an excellent council member, and has our enthusiastic support.
LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION
DISTRICT NO. 4 MARLENE CANTER
Until just a couple months before the primary, Westside incumbent Valerie Fields was one of Mayor Riordans school-board darlings, but he dumped her over her support for the teachers pay raise in the new district contract. Her opponent, Marlene Canter, a wealthy businesswoman, is waging a self-financed campaign, a rarity in school-board elections.
Canter, 52, is smart and driven, and combines judgment and energy with a sound background in both education and business. With her former husband, she built a startup into a multimillion-dollar company that specialized in teacher training one of the school districts most pressing needs.
Fields, 74, is a veteran of L.A. liberal politics, having served many years in Tom Bradleys administration. She was the only member of the pre-Riordan board to oppose the contract extension of former Superintendent Ruben Zacarias. Today, she strongly supports Superintendent Roy Romer and his education program. However, we feel she often was too detached from specific problems at school sites, and her thinking on some matters, including potential solutions to the severe classroom shortage, has been too rigid and uncreative.
The choice between Fields and Canter is a close one, but we believe that Canters expertise and energy will be a more welcome addition to the board.
LOS ANGELES COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT
MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES
OFFICE NO. 6 SAMUEL JOEY HILL
Samuel J. Joey Hill, an accomplished and progressive senior staffer for state Senator Kevin Murray, would give the community colleges a representative who knows his way around state politics. He also would be the boards only African-American member.
SPECIAL ELECTION, UNITED STATES
32nd DISTRICT DIANE WATSON
The real contest to succeed longtime Congressman Julian Dixon, who died suddenly last November, occurred in the April primary, when former state Senator Diane Watson handily dispatched her rivals. In her 20 years in the Legislature, Watson played a leading role in health and welfare issues increasing funding for child care and slapping a dime tax on cigarettes way back in 1982. Today, however, her focus on a number of key issues has grown fuzzy at the fringes. While she will not likely be a progressive leader in Congress, she will at least be a reliably liberal vote.
CITY OF LOS ANGELES MEASURES
There are currently several LAPD and firefighter pension funds, and this measure permits the city to use the surplus in one to cover the liability of another, should such a disparity arise. It also creates a new benefit tier that increases payments from 50 percent for retirees with 20 years service to 90 percent for retirees with 33 years service, better enabling the forces to hang on to their most experienced members.
In 1996, city voters passed a measure enabling widows and widowers of city firefighters and police officers to keep collecting their surviving spouse benefits if they remarry. Proposition B enables surviving spouses who remarried before 96 to regain their eligibility for benefits, too.
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