By Paul Teetor
A small-scale blueprint of everything that's wrong with L.A. City Hall politics will be on display tonight at a Catholic church in Valley Glen, a community near Victory Boulevard and Laurel Canyon Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley:
Tonight, a land speculator who is pushing for a huge, big-money complex in Valley Glen will be romancing three Los Angeles City Council District 2 candidates who have accepted scads of special interest money for the election next Tuesday, September 22.
Together tonight with the speculator, Dasher Lawless Inc.-- (and no, we are not kidding about that name) -- the three candidates will freeze out seven other legitimate candidates running for the council seat. Most of these seven are serious activists with long histories of addressing problems in the San Fernando Valley. But none of the seven, apparently, are palatable to land speculator Dasher Lawless.
All summer, these Valley residents, who some call the Grass Roots 7
candidates, have been urging Valley voters to select one among them on
September 22, in order to balance out what they, and many voters, see
as a bought-and-sold Los Angeles City Council.
The seven Valley civic activists -- Mary Bernson, Pete Sanchez, Zuma Dogg (David Saltsburg) Michael McCue, Josef Essavi, Frank Sheftel and Augusto Bisani -- have talked a lot
this summer about the incestuous relationship between special interests, developers
and City Hall. Some of them are openly disgusted that a big developer is holding a closed-door meeting at a church to rub elbows with the three candidates being backed by special interest money:
"I have to admit I'm surprised we pulled the bed covers back and found
them fornicating even before they have the marriage license," says
Council District 2 candidate Frank Sheftel.
Two of the monied candidates he refers to are also blatant carpetbaggers: Westside businesswoman Christine Essel
and Burbank politician Paul Krekorian both moved into the Valley solely to
run for the lucrative, and very powerful, City Council position -- which pays $178,789.
third big-money candidate, LAUSD board member Tamar Galatzan, is seen
by many as distinct from Essel and Krekorian, because she's lived in Council
District 2 for many years and has a political base there.)
The guy behind the closed-door meeting tonight at St. Jane
Francis De Chantal Church is Christopher Alan, principal partner of Dasher Lawless Inc. Near the church, he wants to build his so-called "Victory Towne Centre."
The tackily named "Centre" is yet another massive, two-block long complex proposed in the Valley. It would jam up along the Tujunga Wash between Fulton Avenue and Coldwater
Canyon -- the very sort of overbuilding that enrages Valley residents.
"It's the largest project currently on file in CD 2," says Sheftel.
"They've submitted their proposal to the planning commission, but they
don't have their approvals yet...they need political support."
Sheftel vows to be at the church tonight, uninvited, to greet arriving voters
and possible special interest donors who attend.
The outspoken 48-year-old specialty chocolate maker -- who is,
interestingly, also a medical marijuana dealer -- counts
himself among the community activists trying to tap voter discontent
in next Tuesday's special election.
The huge Council District 2 stretches
from Sherman Oaks, sprawls across the Valley flatlands, and ends in the
horsey hill country of Sunland-Tujunga. The winner of an expected December 2 runoff will have
tremendous influence over the future of the Valley.
Judy Price, who sent the invites to tonight's meeting
using her title as president of the Valley Glen Neighborhood
Association, insists the meeting is not sponsored by the VGNA --
but also insists that Sheftel and the six other civic activists cannot attend -- only the three special interest-backed candidates can
enter the church.
This bizarre situation didn't deter Sheftel, who has been endorsed by Joel
Wachs, the former City Councilman and political maverick who retired in 2001. Says Sheftel: "Before I spoke to
Judy, I called the church, and the church lady said of course it's open
to the public...Well, I still consider myself part of the public. These
are my friends and neighbors. I want to meet and greet them."
Michael McCue, another candidate, is equally disturbed by the
machinations between Dasher Lawless and purported neighborhood
spokeswoman Price. "I'll be there all night to protest this
kind of machine politics," McCue said. "I couldn't think of a better
example of why we can't let the Mayor and his machine come into CD 2
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and force one of these candidates on us....we need one of our own in that
city council seat."
Around the Blogs: Mayor Sam has details on the major
TV ad buy that was made by moneybags candidate Essel, and Burbank politician Krekorian is still insisting that $15,000 spent by a fellow California state assemblyman to lavishly praise Krekorian is not a campaign ad -- because it doesn't specifically ask voters to vote for him.