Rich Goodman is the face of the lost generation, college graduates who will see a significant reduction in income compared with other age groups because they entered the job market during a recession. That is, if they can get hired.
So it's no surprise that, although Goodman, 27, recently sold an e-commerce startup, his priority is job creation — his job, and those of others.
Influenced by his mother, a Mexican immigrant who believes in community involvement, Goodman is taking on incumbent Tony Cardenas in San Fernando Valley's L.A. City Council District 6.
Also challenging Cardenas, who has spent 15 years jumping between elected posts in City Hall and the state Legislature and City Hall again, are David Barron, 63, a city building inspector, and James "Jamie" Cordaro, 54, owner of All Phase Electrical Systems.
"Just because somebody has experience doesn't mean it's the right experience," says Goodman, who believes City Hall leaders drive businesses out of L.A. "We've already had eight years of my opponent. There's just too much that's not being done, and we can't wait."
Cardenas has touted himself as an outside man, recently saying he's "been fighting the bureaucracy and downtown special interests who have been taking advantage of our community for generations."
Critics say Cardenas too often does the opposite.
In 2007, the Weekly reported, Cardenas pressured Community Redevelopment Agency officials to make an $8 million loan to a downtown project many miles outside his district. The loan was sought by Cardenas' frequent campaign donor, developer Ruben Islas.
At the time, Islas was forcing tenants in his decrepit Alexandria Hotel, near Skid Row, to live in squalor, and a federal court later ordered Islas to supply them with running water.
Lake Balboa resident Ellen Bagelman says Cardenas' attitude is, "He decided who he represented, and if you were not part of that list, he simply ignored you."
Jamie Cordaro, past president of the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council and Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce, recalls that years ago Cardenas dismissed his idea to turn an abandoned Montgomery Ward store in Panorama City into a vocational school, preferring a condominium development.
Cordaro told Cardenas: "Do you realize how much tax base you can generate by taking someone out of a minimum-wage job and parking them in a good, skilled trade?"
The condos never arrived, the property fell into severe decay, and the eerie abandoned building was finally dubbed the "Ghost of Montgomery Ward" by a blogger.
Now, having lost nearly a decade, the L.A. Community College District is building on Cordaro's idea: It hopes to erect a community college.
Barron works for the Los Angeles Housing Department, giving him direct knowledge of the deteriorating citywide infrastructure, which has suffered under this and the previous City Council.
Barron says City Hall's revenues "have only dropped a paltry 2.6 percent" during the recession, yet Cardenas and city officials insist, " 'We have to raise your utilities' — and any other fee that they can create."
Barron wants to save $619 million by dismantling the Community Redevelopment Agency and the mayor's experimental Gang Reduction Youth Development (GRYD) program.
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"The CRA was intended to improve neighborhoods," he says, to "give to politically connected billionaires."
There's little chance Cardenas will lose to Barron, Cordaro or Goodman. The last time voters got angry enough to dump an L.A. City Council incumbent and elect an outsider was when Pat Russell infuriated Westsiders with her pro-developer policies, and residents swept in Ruth Galanter.
That was 1987.
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