MEMBER, LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL
2nd District — No Endorsement
In the 11 months since she was elected to succeed council veterano Joel Wachs in this meandering Studio City–to–Tujunga district, Wendy Greuel has proved herself one of the council’s more diligent members. She’s played a forward-looking role in planning issues, recognizing that L.A. needs denser development along its transit corridors. (In such matters, denser is smarter.) It remains to be seen how she will respond to forthcoming efforts to require developers needing city approval to build affordable housing. Indeed, Greuel is turning out to be more conservative than some of her supporters in last year’s special election — this paper among them — had thought.
In particular, we’re disappointed that Greuel opposed the council’s resolution that put the city on record against unilateral war in Iraq. Greuel argued that the city should not properly involve itself in matters of foreign policy, yet she herself signed on to a Jack Weiss resolution last April deploring Palestinian terrorism and offering support to the peace processes pursued by the U.S. and Israeli governments. (Would that such processes actually existed.) Greuel now says that she wouldn’t support such a measure again, and we suppose that belated consistency is better than selective myopia.
4th District — Tom LaBonge
It should come as no surprise that Tom LaBonge, who succeeded the late John Ferraro in a special election 15 months ago, is the pothole-filling and tree-planting councilman par excellence. The former longtime aide to Ferraro and Mayor Richard Riordan comes close to knowing every alley in his Hancock Park–to–North Hollywood district; and the regard in which he holds the late Kenny Hahn — the legendary, constituent-serving county supe whom he called L.A.’s “greatest public servant” during his interview with the Weekly editorial board — makes his political pedigree very clear. But LaBonge has also demonstrated a more expansive and enlightened sense of the potential of city government than many had expected — in particular, by his commitment to neighborhood involvement in planning processes, and by his understanding that the city can be an important voice in conveying Angelenos’ stance on matters of war and peace. We’re not sure where that leaves LaBonge on issues that don’t galvanize the public, but he clearly deserves another four years to show us.
6th District — No Endorsement
Long a district situated on the south end of the Westside (or the west end of the south side, take your pick), this formerly Venice-Westchester-Crenshaw district wasn’t growing much over the past decade, even as the population of the Latino-ized east San Fernando Valley was booming. In the most recent reapportionment, then, the City Council took the district, and its term-limited incumbent, Ruth Galanter, and plunked them both down in the middle of the east Valley.
The one serious candidate to succeed Galanter is Tony Cardenas, himself just term-limited out of the state Assembly. As chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, Cardenas provided a major boost to after-school programs. As a candidate, he has also pledged to expand the funds in the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund to a cool billion dollars — though at a time when budgets are hemorrhaging at every level of government, it’s not clear how seriously he takes his own proposal.
One thing Cardenas has always taken very seriously is amassing a war chest to elect his friends and dispatch his opponents by all means possible (including playing the race card). Cardenas was the go-to guy for Indian casino interests in Sacramento, which is why they funded a series of scurrilous ads in the 2001 mayoral race against Antonio Villaraigosa (who had refused to back Cardenas’ bid to succeed him as Assembly speaker). Cardenas’ long-standing friendship with developer James Acevedo and their cultivation of an east Valley machine will, we fear, top the list of Cardenas’ priorities when he takes office.
Cardenas’ opponent, Jose Roy Garcia, is the founder and president of a successful youth soccer league, but his lack of familiarity with city issues and his immersion in the cause of Valley secession make him an unsuitable alternative to Cardenas. We’re left making no endorsement in this race.
8th District — Sherri Franklin
Mark Ridley-Thomas is not only term-limited out of this South-Central district; he has already been elected to and taken his seat in the state Assembly. The lopsided contest to succeed him is dominated by former Los Angeles Police Chief Bernie Parks — unceremoniously dumped by Mayor Hahn last year — now plotting his return to the halls of government with an unvoiced strategic plan that is nonetheless almost audible: Today, the council; tomorrow, the Mayor’s Office.
In many ways, Parks the candidate is a pleasant surprise, and nothing’s more pleasant than his emphasis on education and after-school programs as the most important ways that government can reduce crime. He is, however, still defending the LAPD against the dread specter of greater civilian control, and dismissive of the policies recommended by the Christopher Commission for being at once outmoded and long since enacted (in truth, some of them are neither). Worse, Parks’ economic vision could have been cooked up by the Chamber of Commerce in a grouchy mood. He fears that L.A.’s rent controls make it impossible for landlords to get a decent return on their investments; he complains that the merchants of Leimert Park are too invested in their boutique atmospherics and not sufficiently attuned to maximizing profit; his support for the living wage doesn’t extend beyond construction workers to employees of retail establishments in city-assisted developments. We can only hope that campaigning for office broadens Parks’ economic horizons — and that, once elected to a legislative body, he can make the necessary transition from command-and-control to compromise-and-cajole.
In any event, Parks is not the best candidate for this seat. That distinction belongs to Sherri Franklin, a financial consultant with an admirable record of securing funding for inner-city community development — notably, new affordable-housing developments complete with child-care facilities. Under Mayors Bradley and Riordan, Franklin also served on the Board of Zoning Appeals, on the Rent Stabilization Commission (her view of rental economics is at once more grounded and less Darwinian than Parks’), and as president of the Transportation Commission (from which Riordan removed her after she opposed his proposal to privatize parking enforcement). Franklin’s our clear choice in the 8th.
10th District — Martin Ludlow
Though the Weekly has opposed term limits from the get-go, we have always said that in some instances, term limits would have happy consequences. So it is in this midcity district running from Wilshire to Baldwin Hills, where longtime incumbent and bush-league demagogue Nate Holden is finally termed out. Just how happy those consequences will be depends on who succeeds Nate. In this race, there are two worthy successors, and some unworthy ones, too.
The unworthies include former Assemblyman Rod Wright. In the Assembly, Wright showed himself to be both a bright and an industrious legislator, but to execrable ends. Notwithstanding the gun violence in his district, Wright was the National Rifle Association’s point man in Sacramento, the guy who’d weaken or thwart gun-control legislation and help the NRA woo new legislators to its column.
Another substellar choice in this race is Holden’s longtime district aide Deron Williams. Something of a Horatio Alger story, Williams worked himself up Holden’s chain of command, and takes credit for the siting of various retail outlets — most notably, Krispy Kreme — in the 10th in recent years. But the very problem of the 10th is that it can’t claim anything more significant than a Krispy Kreme. Despite diverging from Holden on some of his boss’s most bizarre positions (Williams, for instance, supports the consent decree, which Holden opposed), he has neither the distance from Holden nor a sufficiently expansive view of the district’s potential to merit endorsement.
This is the one race this year in which two candidates clearly merit support: Madison Shockley, who challenged Holden four years ago and got 46 percent of the vote, and first-time candidate Martin Ludlow. Either would be a welcome change for the 10th District and the city as a whole. At a time when many African-American leaders are increasingly parochial and ethnocentric, both Shockley and Ludlow can justly claim to have built multiracial coalitions and to have championed the interests of L.A.’s multiracial poor. Both have been strong voices for police reform and civilian control of the department: Shockley wrote numerous newspaper columns blasting the LAPD for the Rampart scandal; Ludlow was the community-outreach coordinator for the campaign to pass Christopher Commission reforms and wants to give the department’s independent inspector general real investigative capacity. Either candidate would be a strong and needed counterweight to Bernie Parks on the council.
An ordained minister, Shockley has disseminated a biblically based curriculum in black churches promoting reproductive choice. He coordinated a program of 200 “community conversations” following the 1992 riots, and he’s a board member of a successful inner-city charter school.
Ludlow matches Shockley’s commitment to progressive causes, and would also bring to the council a level of energy and organizing smarts seldom found in City Hall. There’s hardly a notable local battle over the past 15 years — from police-reform ballot measures to the ouster of corrupt leadership in the city’s restaurant union — in which Ludlow hasn’t played the role of organizer and strategist. He served as Southern California chief of staff for Antonio Villaraigosa during Villaraigosa’s Assembly speakership, and then as political director for the L.A. County Federation of Labor. On matters of economic development, Ludlow supports building up the city’s transit corridors, but he also understands, as few candidates do, that building a stronger local economy also means helping the current campaign to unionize the thousands of high-rise security guards across L.A. Both Shockley and Ludlow would be welcome additions to the City Council; Ludlow would be an exceptional one.
12th District — Rob Vinson
Yet another council elder falling prey to term limits is Hal Bernson, the council’s dean, who’s represented this northwest Valley district for 24 years. The 12th has long been the city’s most conservative district (secession carried in the 12th by a hefty 61 percent to 39 percent margin last November), but it’s growing less so: The 12th now has a narrow plurality of Democratic voters.
It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that Bernson, in all his years on the council, never saw a development he didn’t like. It’s precisely that orientation from which Greig Smith, his longtime chief of staff and the front-runner to succeed Bernson in this election, has been scrambling to distance himself. On matters developmental, and on city policy generally, Smith would doubtless take more moderate positions than Bernson. But the district and the city could do better than this center-right insider. (It could also do worse. Former Assembly Member Paula Boland, a virulent right-winger, die-hard secessionist and all-around dim bulb, is also seeking the seat.)
As in the 10th, two progressive candidates are also in the hunt, but here, the difference between the two is more pronounced. Longtime school-board member Julie Korenstein has at times been an important impediment to the Riordanization of the LAUSD, but as a City Council candidate she seems surprisingly at sea when it comes to understanding the problems of the 12th, much less any solutions. (Her vagueness on the Sunshine Canyon Landfill is genuinely stunning.)
The clear choice in the 12th is Rob Vinson, an aspiring affordable-housing developer and environmental activist. Vinson has built a tract of 14 low-cost and family-size homes in Panorama City, throwing in a child-care center for good measure. He favors boosting local hiring from merely a goal that developers must show a good-faith effort to have met to a real standard that they must meet to win approval for their project. It’s an open question whether Vinson would have the street smarts to steer his idealist visions to enactment once on the council, but the city would be better just for his making the fight.
Villaraigosa: eyeing the Mayor’s office Photo by Debra DiPaolo
14th District — Antonio Villaraigosa
The race between Antonio Villaraigosa and incumbent Nick Pacheco for this Eastside, Boyle Heights–to–Highland Park seat is the most important contest on the March ballot. Its outcome will likely determine the course of city government and the direction of Latino and Democratic politics in Los Angeles for at least the next four years.
Coming up on the halfway point of his four-year term as mayor, Jim Hahn has some genuine achievements under his belt — the creation of the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the defeat of secession at the polls last November — but as yet, his has not been a very creative mayoralty. Nonetheless, it far outshines the City Council over the past couple of years. The legislative body that produced one of the nation’s pioneering living-wage ordinances just a few years ago has often become distressingly parochial. There are progressive members of the City Council, but on a number of occasions they have been unable to constitute a majority on important questions. Which is just one reason why the election of Villaraigosa is so important: It would re-instill a sense of momentum to progressive L.A., and place the leader of that movement right in the middle of city government.
By challenging one-term incumbent Pacheco for the right to represent the 14th, Villaraigosa is violating one of the axioms of government-by-term-limits: Don’t go after an incumbent; wait just one more term and the seat will be open. By some measures, Pacheco’s performance has been anything but a disaster. He often votes for the progressive position, but he never takes the lead in such matters (and on the recent anti-war resolution, he absented himself from the first vote, which, but for Jan Perry’s flakiness, would have passed without his having to commit himself). By backing Hahn over Villaraigosa in the 2001 mayor’s race, Pacheco guaranteed that the new mayor would fill every pothole in the district in record time. Pacheco’s no stranger to deal making with mayors. While on the charter-reform commission, he voted Riordan’s way to win the then-mayor’s support for his first council bid (and, once on the council, opposed the consent decree so long as Riordan did).
Pacheco also played a role in establishing the city’s Housing Trust Fund, but he argues that his own constituents have little interest in any new affordable housing. They want cops on the beat and streets without potholes, and his mission as a council member, he insists, is basically to provide them. In a district with a mind-boggling array of needs, this is a modest agenda indeed.
Pacheco is most notable, of course, for helping to wage some of the most slime-filled campaigns since Sam Yorty vilified Tom Bradley. In the mayoral contest two years ago, his political machine had a Gloria Molina impersonator phone voters with a message attacking Villaraigosa. His current campaign got off with a bang when a longtime Pacheco pal sent out letters that assailed Villaraigosa’s personal life; it took Pacheco the better part of a week to repudiate the attack. Currently, he is caught up in a scandal brought about by his funneling city funds to the same group of people who are waging a campaign on his behalf. Politics for Pacheco is about rewarding friends and punishing enemies by any means possible. Los Angeles deserves, and needs, better politics than that.
Villaraigosa’s record is strong. The onetime union organizer and ACLU official served as Assembly speaker in the late ’90s. In that post, he not only authored and steered to passage the biggest school-construction and park bonds in state history, he also ensured that they provided a fair share of the funding for historically underfunded inner cities. Since the mayor’s race, Villaraigosa has campaigned alongside Hahn against secession. He’s worked to develop a bio-med research park near USC and, more broadly, a green-technologies economic-development strategy for the city. As the person who, during his mayoral run, infused the idea of an affordable-housing trust fund into L.A.’s civic discourse, and as an early champion of an expansive living-wage policy for the city, he can be counted upon to renew those campaigns while on the council. Above all, a Villaraigosa victory portends a renewal of the crosstown progressive politics that Los Angeles — a city that’s chronically prey to racial divisions and class disparities — can ill do without. L.A. needs Villaraigosa on the council, and we strongly support his candidacy.
Our choices for school board:
MEMBER, LOS ANGELES
1st District — Genethia Hudley Hayes
Four years ago, Genethia Hayes replaced Barbara Boudreaux, whose specialty was helping to promote and protect black administrators. Boudreaux’s tack made sense back when racism blocked the rise of qualified black professionals. But Hayes offered a more timely, inclusive agenda, one more focused on students than adults and one that recognized the needs of Latinos as well as blacks. In this South L.A. board district, the key voters are elderly blacks, but most students are Latino.
Hayes, 57, is tough, smart and fearless — even when it comes to endorsing the replacement of ineffective black administrators. Which isn’t to say she lacks for critics. Some African-American leaders view her as insufficiently watchful of their interests; others simply find her arrogant and dismissive. Her opponent, Marguerite LaMotte, arises from both arenas of discontent. LaMotte, 69, was herself removed as principal of Washington Prep High in 2001. She ultimately retired rather than accept reassignment at a middle school. She contends that she was unjustly removed after a decade at Washington, where she’s best remembered for building the school’s music program. Academically, Washington has occupied the same basement as most other district high schools, for a laundry list of reasons.
LaMotte’s thin platform stresses a return to hiring from within — an odd priority given the current state of things, and also a stark contrast with Hayes, who has supported paying higher salaries to lure the best talent from a nationwide pool of educators and private-business executives.
LaMotte’s backers include former board member Boudreaux, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and the teachers union. Hayes has the backing of former Mayor Riordan’s Coalition for Kids, but as a longtime community leader, Hayes is by no means a candidate of his creation.
Hayes, despite her prickliness, is better qualified and a stronger leader.
3rd District — Caprice Young
Redistricting left Caprice Young with a west San Fernando Valley–based seat dominated by moderate Anglo voters. It was presumed to be a lock for her. Instead, the campaign’s a dogfight — partly because Young’s new constituents are not familiar with her good work at campuses in her old district. Young’s also the board member most closely associated with former Mayor Riordan, a sticking point for the 6,000 active teachers and numerous retired teachers who live here. All of them make natural foot soldiers for the teachers union, which is determined to counter Riordan’s picks and especially to unseat Young. Her opponent, Jon Lauritzen, 64, is one of these retired teachers.
Lauritzen has three times run unsuccessfully for the state Assembly and has long been active in his community. He’s not especially up-to-date, even when it comes to computers and math instruction, two of his classroom specialties. His core plan — to return decision making to the school site — has intrinsic appeal but would inevitably undo some current districtwide reforms, which need and deserve more time to work. To his credit, he’s not afraid to disagree with his teachers-union sponsors, but he lacks Young’s grasp of issues now confronting the school system.
It’s no coincidence that Young presides over meetings as school-board president. She used political cunning and leadership skills to maneuver into this role, and she also employs these abilities to develop and evaluate district policy. All at once, she can push Riordan’s occasional agenda item (for better or for worse), support Superintendent Roy Romer and advance the best ideas from the profuse, scattershot intellect of David Tokofsky, her board colleague who has fallen out with Riordan. (Young’s also capable of poor judgment — as when she accepted a part-time position with a nonprofit funded by voucher advocate Ted Forstmann.)
Young, 37, made political hay this month by unexpectedly announcing her desire to break up the behemoth school system. This plan looks every inch like a ploy to appeal to secession-leaning Valley voters. Timing aside, Young’s views are probably genuine; she has, in the past, expressed doubt about whether a big L.A. Unified is actually better.
With reservations, we support Young, because her leadership is simply too critical to this current board in terms of both improving schools and building new ones.
Tokofsky: Necessary watchdog (Photo by Ted Soqui)
5th District — David Tokofsky
Two-term incumbent David Tokofsky, 42, must feel only slightly less pressured to accept regime change than Saddam Hussein. First, he was redistricted to a crazy quilt of precincts that snake from Los Feliz and Eagle Rock in the north down to South Gate. (South Gate is among several cities outside L.A. proper that are served by L.A. Unified.) The Latino voter registration is about 59 percent, and these voters don’t particularly know Tokofsky. (In his old district, he was generally well-regarded by both teachers and parents.) Next, Richard Riordan and Eli Broad unsuccessfully courted Occidental College president Ted Mitchell to run against Tokofsky. Then, the teachers-union leadership made noises about withholding its endorsement — until rank-and-file teachers went overwhelmingly his way. Now Tokofsky faces three Latino candidates who, together, are certain to push him into a runoff. And in that runoff, he’ll likely have to confront the full-funding muscle of Riordan and Broad.
All the challengers have merits. Nellie Rios-Parra, 35, is a well-educated teacher, parent and preschool-program administrator in the tiny Lennox school district. But perhaps because her career has been outside L.A. Unified, her knowledge of district issues is general at best. And it’s difficult to see her as a forceful personality on the school board. She’ll have the big dollars that come with her recent endorsement by Riordan and Broad’s Coalition for Kids.
Jose Sigala, 33, also a parent, and a top deputy to Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh, is well-versed on this vastly divergent district. He lives in the northerly Echo Park area and has served the South Gate environs as Firebaugh’s liaison on school issues. Except for school construction, Sigala has only a loose grasp on education matters, though his street smarts and knowledge of government would serve him well. His connections to the Eastside political machine have skeptics speculating whether he would improperly influence the awarding of contracts, but no one has offered any evidence that he would. Sigala has support from Supervisor Gloria Molina and other Latinos — an ethnocentric faction apart from both Riordan and United Teachers Los Angeles.
The diversified background of Maria Lou Calanché, 34, includes an advanced degree, community-college teaching, consulting work for an elementary school and experience as a field deputy for an L.A. City Council member. She’s also completing a doctorate in citizen participation and land-use policy based largely on district issues. Her Achilles’ heel is a paucity of political and financial support.
So why the push for regime change? For one thing, this district was originally carved out to elect a Latino, and Tokofsky (an Anglo who speaks Spanish) has thwarted that aim. For another, Tokofsky is disliked or distrusted by board colleagues and top administrators because he asks endless questions, requests reams of information, delays board actions, and leaks stories and confidences to reporters. Unable to build his own majority coalition, he often has worked most effectively in opposition or as a fountainhead of ideas that others have to carry forward.
And yet, 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. On this board of education, he serves as a helpful irritant, an antidote to the excesses of the superintendent and board majority, willing to ask uncomfortable but often necessary questions. He also contributes a thoughtful, lively brilliance to questions of policy.
Tokofsky will never win a popularity contest at school-district headquarters, and that’s precisely why he deserves to stay on the job.
7th District — Mike Lansing
The district of one-term incumbent Mike Lansing encompasses a swath of South Los Angeles that plunges straight down to San Pedro. Lansing faces only long-shot opposition because 37-year-old challenger Gilbert Carillo, a tax auditor, failed to secure the teachers-union endorsement and the campaign money that comes with it. Lansing, 46, has demonstrated through his integrity and intelligence that he deserves a second term.
MEMBER, LOS ANGELES COMMUNITY COLLEGE BOARD
The format in this election is stupefying. Each board member represents the entire geography of the nine-campus system — an area larger than those represented by either City Council or school-board members. But at the same time, each seat on the board is treated as a separate office. The result is that you combine the worst features of both at-large and district elections.
You could, for example, end up with all seven board members living on the same block. That’s the problem with at-large elections. You don’t necessarily get a representative for each geographic region.
Or you could have the best challenger running against the best incumbent and not be able to choose them both, even though four seats are open. That’s the problem with elections by district: Some races may have only weak candidates; others may have more than one who is worthy. In the community-college board races, a challenger has to pick one and only one incumbent to go after.
In this cycle, four incumbents are trying to hold on to their seats. This group of incumbents was endorsed, as a bloc, by labor and faculty in 1999. All of them were elected to this board for the first time in 1999, although Georgia Mercer had been on the board for a year after being appointed to fill out the term of a board member who died. This gang of four are still chummy with labor and each other, and they are trying now for a second term.
Overall, they deserve to continue in office. Each brings some valuable skills to the table. Furutani was a former L.A. school-board member and is a veteran legislative aide in his work outside the board. He brings lobbying and political know-how. Sylvia Scott-Hayes manages a testing center at Cal State L.A., providing perspective from another rung of the higher-ed system. She’s especially keen on equity issues, increasing academic standards and using bond money to build environmentally sustainable campuses. Georgia Mercer is a veteran public servant especially attuned to women’s issues, such as the training of child-care providers. She also sits on the statewide community-college board. And she’s the only board member who lives in the San Fernando Valley. As for Mona Field, she may not have written the book on California politics, metaphorically speaking, but she has written a book on how state politics 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 has 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.
This board generally flies below the radar screen of the public and the media, and the Weekly claims no intimate knowledge of its workings. Still, there are some accomplishments to acknowledge. Collectively, the board successfully steered a $1.2 billion bond measure to voter approval — a major, vital achievement for the largest community-college district in the state. The board also upgraded the administrative leadership of individual campuses and of the district itself, while continuing a decentralization effort that should allow talented managers to improve their campuses more quickly.
Major structural problems persist that, for the most part, are not the fault of the board. These schools remain perennially underfunded and are slated to take a big hit in the state budget. Meanwhile, the state is raising tuition — money that will go to the state, not the schools. The cost of a typical class is likely to triple from $33 to $72. It’s not a good deal for students: fewer, more-crowded classes that will cost more money to take.
The incumbents argue that these tough times are no times for beginners. That argument is a little overdrawn. The intriguing challengers include Donna Warren, an articulate, passionate retired auditor who’s run for Congress and lieutenant governor under the Green Party banner. Warren would be an interesting addition to the board, especially because it lacks an African-American. But there’s no pressing justification to replace the incumbent she’s running against, Scott-Hayes, the board’s only Latino. So Scott-Hayes gets the nod, although there are offices for which we could envision endorsing Warren.
OFFICE NO. 1
OFFICE NO. 3
OFFICE NO. 5
OFFICE NO. 7
Warren T. Furutani