Paul Koretz, a longtime fixture in local politics — who's running for his third and final term as L.A. city councilman representing the Westside's District 5 — says he's never been attacked as "vigorously" as he has been during this campaign. And he'd like to fight back.
The attack "is interesting from a candidate that has no connections to the Council District in any way, shape or form, other than living here for a few years," Koretz says. "I live about a block away from him. I’d never heard of him. He wasn’t part of the community. People have been trying to figure out why he’s running."
He's referring, of course, to Jesse Creed, the 31-year-old Canadian-born attorney whose family moved to the Westside when he was 6. After attending college at Princeton and law school at Columbia, Creed moved to Los Angeles in 2013. He landed a job at the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson, where he helped work on the settlement agreement following a lawsuit filed against the Veterans Administration campus, which got the campus to build housing for homeless veterans.
Even though he has little political experience, save for a seat on the Community Veterans Oversight and Engagement Board, Creed is running for City Council.
Creed has Koretz's attention for one reason: He's raised money. Lots of money — $264,629, to be exact, according to the city ethics commission website. That's more than any other City Council challenger this year. Much of that money has come through his Munger, Tolles & Olson connections, and some of it may have come through his brother, Brandon Creed, a successful music manager with Hollywood connections. Throw in another $100,000 in matching funds, and it starts to look like real money, although Koretz has still raised $120,000 more than Creed.
A third candidate, libertarian Mark Herd, also is running, though he appears not to have raised any money yet.
When asked about his lack of experience, Creed has a ready response: "The Fifth District is famous for electing outsiders who will fight to push the system. This goes back to Zev Yarolavsky, Rosalind Wyman and Ed Edelman." The latter two were in their mid-30s when they were first elected to City Council; Yaroslavsky was just 27.
The L.A. Times editorial board was coolly dismissive of Creed, writing that his experience on the veterans oversight board is "a good start for an aggressive young activist who wants to become involved in community matters, but it is not enough to merit a seat on the City Council." The board instead chose to endorse Koretz, though its praise for the incumbent was tepid: "After two terms in office, it’s troubling that he hasn’t been more of a leader on the important citywide issues he says he cares about — the creation of affordable housing, for example."
"Paul has always taken the easy road," Creed says. "He operates on a principle of do no harm, instead of do good. In this city, there's so much disillusionment in city government. We need fresh leaders to give people a reason to trust City Hall again."
Creed has been especially hard on Koretz on the issue of the day: development.
Both Creed and Koretz had been reluctant to take a stance on Measure S, the polarizing March 7 ballot initiative that seeks to curb large-scale development. Both say the ballot initiative has a lot of good proposals in it and has been the catalyst for an important debate in the city. But recently, both have come out against it, saying the measure's two-year moratorium on exceptions to the zoning laws would exacerbate the city's housing crisis.
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Creed criticizes Koretz for being quick to approve large-scale developments such as Rick Caruso's controversial high-rise on La Cienega. After the Times ran a story on Caruso's steady flow of campaign contributions into City Hall, Creed held a press conference lambasting the project and his opponent for approving it. Hours later, Koretz announced he was withdrawing support of the project — a move that the Times editorial board thought "made him look cynical and opportunistic."
"We’ve been leading on all these issues, then a few days later Paul Koretz takes the action we told him to take," Creed complains.
But Koretz defends his record on development, saying he's tried to take a balanced approach that focuses on compromise.
"I try to bring developers and neighborhood groups together," he says.