Great, Great, Great
There were moments when the location of Bill Rosendahl’s election-night party almost upstaged the candidate for the City Council seat of the 11th District, which stretches from Westchester to Pacific Palisades. Supporters of the former cable-TV executive and public-affairs-show host shuffled in bemused awe through Gary Shafner’s digs on Pacific Avenue. The ad executive and former Bob Dylan road manager’s sprawling complex included an antique-car collection, a vintage Coppertone billboard, bookcases that mysteriously revolved to reveal hidden rooms, a swimming pool, a restaurant-size barroom and visual puns galore. (The name “Mickey” was engraved into the mantel of the home’s fireplace. Think: Yankee baseball legend.) The place almost upstaged Rosendahl, but not quite, for the 60-year-old seeker of termed-out Cindy Miscikowski’s job is himself an outsize figure, an enthusiastic juggernaut part Huell Howser, part Max Headroom.
“Great! Great! Great!” is how Rosendahl answered questions about how the runoff was going Tuesday night. There are no commas in a Rosendahl sentence, and the word “great” is never big enough to simply repeat once. Throughout the evening, Rosendahl’s army chanted, “Great! Great! Great!” whenever he addressed them, while standing on the location of Venice as it appeared painted on the living room’s floor-length map of the California coast. Although his opponent, city planner and Brentwood activist Flora Gil Krisiloff, had jumped out to a minuscule lead based on early absentee ballots, Rosendahl slowly began establishing a widening lead over his opponent.
“I’m going to have a real drink when this is over!” Rosendahl, clutching a water bottle, yelled to one of the bartenders.
Yet even by midnight, when the candidate’s lead seemed insurmountable and he made what he called an “almost victory speech,” Krisiloff had not conceded defeat. For months the election had focused on concerns of district residents about growth of the controversial Playa Vista housing development and the proposed expansion of Los Angeles International Airport, along with their anger about traffic, parking and other growth issues — even though there seemed little daylight between the positions of the two candidates. Then, in the campaign’s closing days, it was revealed that three Playa Vista investors had contributed $45,000 to Krisiloff, which possibly created enough backlash to hand Rosendahl his eventual 57 percent to 43 percent margin of victory. (Ironically, Krisiloff had once voted to deny the Rosendahl party’s host, Shafner, a permit to build on another, nearby property.)
“This campaign is not about Bill Rosendahl,” the candidate told the Weekly. “I’m going to hold forums in the community — congresses of empowerment, because we have a lot of resources we didn’t know we have. I’m going to set an example to my colleagues on the council of how people can come together.”
Rosendahl made no secret of his belief that Krisiloff’s campaign, headed by consultant Rick Taylor, had attempted to smear him.
“They ran a negative campaign from the very beginning,” Rosendahl said. “Rick Taylor and his tactics did a disservice to Flora Krisiloff. But I hold no grudges, and I extend an olive branch to her and her supporters — I have absolutely no animosity toward anyone.”
Rosendahl never had a problem with support and said he’d pulled in $225,000 during the campaign’s final 10 weeks, while earning endorsements from nine council members, along with the County Federation of Labor, whose leader, Miguel Contreras, Rosendahl had spoken to on May 6, just an hour before Contreras died.
Describing himself as a “progressive Democrat,” Rosendahl spoke on election night with one hand holding a microphone and the other pressed over his heart, and slightly swayed as he told his audience of spotting a rare urban hawk, the white-tailed kite, in his district’s wetlands, while also seeing four deer in Temescal Canyon. The people in the room, who included former Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, current Councilman Eric Garcetti and Venice activist Jerry Rubin, seemed ready to vote him into the White House based on that information alone, although the place quickly began emptying when word spread that the party’s parking lot, located at a nearby school, would lock its gates at half past midnight. Even here, tonight, parking had become an urgent issue on the Westside.
Sobs of Defeat
Over at Brentwood’s posh Luxe Hotel, in a small hallway near the grandiose Sunset Ballroom, where council candidate Flora Gil Krisiloff held her election-night party for her 100-plus supporters who shelled out $8 for beer and munched on hors d’oeuvres, Krisiloff’s campaign consultant Rick Taylor quietly sobbed in the arms of his son. Around midnight, it became clear that the 53-year-old Krisiloff, a longtime Brentwood community activist, had lost her bid for the 11th District council seat.
“I think he went negative,” said Taylor about former cable-television executive Bill Rosendahl. “He did eight to 10 hit pieces in the last 10 days, and I think it made a big difference, and unfortunately the public responded to it. It is all about spinning, and they did a heck of a good job. I don’t think it is her loss. I think it is the voters’ loss.”
The two candidates shared similar views on the big issues surrounding the 11th District. Both were against LAX expansion, overdevelopment, and wanted to fix traffic gridlock. But the campaigns took a nasty turn in March when Krisiloff accused Rosendahl, who is gay, of conducting a whisper campaign that she was anti-gay. She also launched two attack mailers, one accusing Rosendahl of having been “City Hall’s top lobbyist” for Adelphia cable television. In turn, Rosendahl accused the former public-health nurse of being in bed with developers and attacked her tenure on the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission. (In the March primary, Rosendahl received 44.6 percent of the vote to Krisiloff’s 41.7 percent. Attorney Angela Reddock, who recently backed Rosendahl, garnered 13.7 percent.)
Asked about Krisiloff’s fliers attacking Rosendahl, Taylor responded, “We told the truth.” Krisiloff, who was wearing her trademark red jacket and black pants, remained upbeat throughout the night. “I have made some great friends in the last 15 months.”
As the night wore on, the room quickly emptied. By the time the bar closed at 11:30 p.m., only a handful of supporters, who sat cross-legged around the room’s three television sets, remained, as well as outgoing City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski.
By the end of the night, Krisiloff thanked her volunteers while L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who popped in just before midnight, watched newly elected Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa give his acceptance speech on TV. He paused to chat briefly before he joined the throngs waiting for valets to return with their cars. “I am very disappointed. I think Flora is a smart, committed community leader . . . The winner will have to make good on their promise, and I hope Bill does what he said he will do.”
Quiz for Rocky
In March, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo dropped by the Hahn primary-election party just to check things out. Careful to say he hadn’t endorsed anyone, he skillfully dodged questions about whether he planned to run for state attorney general. Less than a week passed before he announced that he was running.
On Tuesday, he again dropped by the Hahn party and showed he knew how to stick with the politically safe lines. Noting, again, that he hadn’t endorsed for mayor, he proclaimed the still-undecided election a victory for the city.
Then the city’s chief prosecutor was asked whether he believed that contracting, which formed much of the basis for Hahn’s political troubles, was any more corrupt over the last four years than under the previous administration, when he served as deputy mayor.
“One of the reasons why I became involved in government was that I felt that people like myself needed to be involved so that contracting problems, if there are any, could be resolved,” he said. “I believe that we can do a much better job of delivering services to the people we represent, which includes contracting out the services that we contract out for at the moment.”
Thanks, Rocky. But is city contracting more messed up now than it was when you were deputy mayor?
“I believe that we’re working hard at it, and I’m hopeful that we’ll get even better. I’m one of those who believes that we can always improve. And I think we need to do a better and better job.”
Right. Is it better or worse than it was four years ago?
“It’s very hard to say. But I believe that we can continue to do a better and better job. Okay? I apologize.”
Waiting for Democracy
On Election Day, Pico-Robertson-area resident Darrell Menthe did something that he very rarely does. He got up early to vote.
“I have cast my vote in L.A. for the last nine years, but I usually don’t get to the polling station till after 8,” said the lawyer and self-described political junkie and late riser. “But I had to work.”
His diligence didn’t pay off. Upon arriving at his polling station on Robertson Boulevard, he was promptly turned away. A volunteer told him that the car carrying the ballots to the polling station had broken down. The L.A. City Clerk’s Office confirmed the story. Menthe stuck around till 7:30 a.m., hoping that the election worker’s car would appear. It didn’t happen.
“It triggered all those 2000 memories of the shenanigans in Florida where people couldn’t vote,” he said. “You hear it happening to other people.”
It took the City Clerk’s Office another two hours to open the polling station, and there were plenty of ballots when Menthe returned at noon.
“I was pretty upset about it, but I was pigheaded enough to drive back and vote at lunch,” he said. “It is only a mayor’s election, but it is the principle of the thing.”