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L.A. Weekly’s Choices

MEMBER, LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL

10th District — Martin Ludlow

While the Weekly has opposed term limits from the start, we’ve always said that in certain cases, they’d have happy consequences. One such circumstance is occurring this spring in the 10th District — a very diverse midcity seat encompassing Koreatown, Mid-Wilshire and much of Baldwin Hills; it’s the city’s most heavily African-American district while having substantial Latino, Jewish and Asian populations as well — where longtime incumbent Nate Holden is finally termed out of office.

Holden first won this seat 16 years ago with a reputation as something of an eccentric liberal, and in the years since, he’s grown far more eccentric and far less liberal. He opposed the LAPD’s consent decree with the Justice Department and numerous other causes that would have benefited his constituents; and his council-chamber rants — some of them packed with racial innuendo — are the stuff of legend and occasional nightmare.

Now, at least, Holden is going. Or is he? One of the two candidates vying for this seat, Deron Williams, has labored for no one but Holden since the beginning of his recorded history, when Holden took him, at about age 21, under his wing. As Holden’s chief district aide for the past four years, Williams has learned to service Holden’s supporters and fill their potholes — a limited set of skills that will take Williams, and Los Angeles, only so far.

Of the time period before he met Holden, all is murk and mystery. Williams was arrested in possession of cocaine and did time, but for a young man growing up in the conditions in which Williams apparently grew up, that’s, sadly, not all that exceptional — nor the problem with his candidacy. The problem is his lack of candor today, his insistence that he can’t remember the events surrounding his arrest. The 10th can do better.

Fortunately, in Martin Ludlow, it has a candidate with whom it can do a lot better. Ludlow is one of the most demonstrably dedicated and able progressives to come on the L.A. scene in years. Working as the chief Southern California aide for two Assembly speakers (Antonio Villaraigosa and Herb Wesson), as political director for the L.A. County Federation of Labor and the Western region of the Service Employees, and as the community-outreach director of the campaign to pass the Christopher Commission reforms, Ludlow has played a key role in virtually every struggle for L.A.’s multiracial poor, for civil liberties and civil rights, of the past 15 years. He’s a strong advocate of community-based policing and of a powerful, independent inspector general at the LAPD, of an ambitious affordable-housing policy and of a growth agenda tied to the provision of unionized, decent-paying jobs. At a time when much of the city’s African-American leadership looks inward, his entire approach to public issues is profoundly multiracial. Joining the newly elected Villaraigosa and incumbents Eric Garcetti and Ed Reyes on the City Council, Ludlow would be a key part of a progressive bloc at a time when living-wage and affordable-housing advocates are planning to push more ambitious agendas.

Martin Ludlow would be a great representative for his district and his city, and we support him wholeheartedly.

12th District — Julie Korenstein

Council elder Hal Bernson is out because of term limits, and Greig Smith, the front-runner to replace him, is a reasonable facsimile. If only that were a good thing . . .

Smith, a pro-business Republican, has a natural appeal to the many voters in this northwest Valley district who remain relatively conservative and cranky. They favored Valley secession by 61.3 percent to 38.7 percent, a greater pro-secession margin than in any other council district. Still, this district is more diverse and less conservative than it used to be. Not surprisingly, Smith presents himself as a centrist — a kinder, greener Republican alternative to Bernson, who virtually never met a development he didn’t like. And Smith does seem open to concepts like open space. Nonetheless, separating Smith’s record from Bernson’s poses a challenge. His career is embedded in Bernson’s.

Fact is, Smith was Bernson’s right-hand man for the last 23 of Bernson’s 24 years on the council. He led Bernson’s efforts on behalf of the Porter Ranch development and other real estate developments in Northridge and Chatsworth. He worked with Bernson against the development of the Chatsworth Dam area and against expansion of the Sunshine Canyon landfill. (Opposing that landfill remains a mantra of any candidate running in this area.) He did part company with Bernson on the issue of neighborhood councils. Bernson was adamantly against them; Smith supported them.

Being a loyal deputy is nothing to be ashamed of, but Smith has strategically avoided any mention of his actual job — working for Bernson — on his Web site, focusing instead on part-time duties as a reserve police officer and community involvement with the YMCA, the Jaycees and the Chamber of Commerce. Although he has submerged his ties to powerful downtown interests, Smith hasn’t eschewed their support, benefiting from the same donors that have long bankrolled Bernson campaigns. He’ll outspend opponent Julie Korenstein by a considerable margin.

 

Are Smith’s pre-Bernson days even worth mentioning? For the record, Smith once ran a formalwear store, and, as an errant young Republican, he spearheaded the drive to retain Spiro Agnew as Richard Nixon’s vice president.

The better choice is current school-board member Korenstein. Her strengths are a respectable match in an area where many voters feel alternately ramrodded or neglected by City Hall on development and quality-of-life issues. Control of runaway development has become a prime local concern, and on the school board, Korenstein, 59, has been a staunch environmentalist and never a particular friend to developers. Another Korenstein strength has been her attention to local school issues brought forward by parents. They weren’t always happy with the results, but she made it her business to give them a fair hearing. That approach should sit especially well with the disenchanted local electorate.

On the school board, Korenstein displayed her pro-union proclivities to a fault, but consistently lacked the forum that City Hall would provide to pursue her progressive political views. Don’t expect her to exert citywide leadership — that may be beyond her grasp — but she’d certainly prove a reliable ally to causes championed by Council Members Eric Garcetti or Antonio Villaraigosa.

She’d also provide a helpful link between the city and the school district. As a school-board member, she successfully championed the need for including a school in the Porter Ranch development. As a council member, she could keep the city focused on the need for new schools and on the importance of integrating them effectively into neighborhoods.

MEMBER, LOS ANGELES SCHOOL BOARD

5th District — David Tokofsky

Two-term incumbent David Tokofsky, 42, faces Nellie Rios-Parra, 35, who is a well-educated teacher, parent and preschool-program administrator in the tiny Lennox school district. Perhaps because her career has been outside L.A. Unified, her knowledge of district issues does not compare well to that of Tokofsky, who is a master of detail.

Rios-Parra is backed by the fund-raising of Coalition for Kids, controlled by former Mayor Richard Riordan and billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad. Tokofsky has the backing of the teachers union, and pulled the nifty trick of getting endorsed by the two primary opponents who didn’t make the runoff. He needed it, given that these former opponents, like Rios-Parra, are Latino and that this district was drawn to elect a Latino.

Alas, Tokofsky deserves to thwart that Latino-empowerment goal once again. Latino students would be among the beneficiaries. A number of district advances in recent years have his stamp on them — including setting up an Inspector General’s Office to serve as a watchdog on spending, improving the way legal advice is obtained and ensuring environmental safety at schools. He’s ever willing to ask uncomfortable but often-necessary questions, while contributing a thoughtful, lively brilliance to questions of policy.

Two incumbent school-board members lost in the primary, which means that a victorious Tokofsky would be called on to exert leadership as he never has before. We’re hopeful that he’s up for the challenge.

MEMBER, LOS ANGELES COMMUNITY COLLEGE BOARD

OFFICE NO. 3

Mona Field

Incumbent Mona Field knows state politics well enough to have written a book about how it works. She uses this handy reference in the course she teaches at Glendale Community College, where she’s been a faculty leader for years. She possesses an innate understanding of governance, and her Glendale position allows her to apply the insights of another system to Los Angeles. She also has a sensitive ear for the much-abused part-time faculty members upon which the community colleges rely. And she makes a point of attending school-bond oversight meetings. She’s worth keeping on the job.

COUNTY MEASURES

LOS ANGELES COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT

PROPOSITION AA

Wait a minute, you say. Didn’t voters just approve a $1.245 billion bond measure for local community colleges two years ago? Yes, they did. And was there even a hint, at the time, of another bond measure coming so soon? No, there wasn’t.

Okay, maybe it isn’t fair, but get over it. The community colleges need the $980 million this bond measure would provide to repair and build facilities. These schools have long been neglected by the state, to the detriment of the masses of students who depend on them as a first step to a better life. Oversight committees at each of the nine campuses will try to make sure the money is well spent.


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