And the winner is … David T. Vahedi.
The 60 or so representatives of dozens of groups that are part of the Coalition of Homeowner Associations-Council
District 5 came to a near-unanimous verdict that Vahedi, an attorney and former state tax auditor, was their choice to succeed Councilman Jack Weiss, the wannabe City Attorney they disliked so much they tried to recall him.
I was one of the moderators of the group’s recent two-hour forum in which five Fifth District candidates participated and here’s what homeowner activists said when asked later “which candidate
or candidates were the most likely to be an advocate for protecting and preserving
1. David T. Vahedi (83%)
2. Ron Galperin (33%)
3. Paul Koretz (15%)
4. Robyn Ritter Simon (4%)
5. Robert Schwartz (0%) Adeena Bleich was a “no show” at the last minute, which didnt help her case among this segment of the population of CD5, which includes Sherman Oaks and a large chunk of the Westside.
CD5, along with Bill Rosendahl’s district farther west, are the most affluent areas of the city. Yet, the most striking impression I have from giving up my status as a Valley guy and venturing out across L.A. among community activists from every part of the city is the universal experience of anger and frustration.
Rich or poor, regardless of race or economic class, the experience is the same: City Hall gives them the runaround, nothing but lip service, and doesn’t solve their problems or address their needs.
Some are angrier than others, their specific issues are different and so often are the values they have. But they are fed up with being disrespected and powerless.
The groundswell of this discontent is beginning to coalesce and the city elections in March will show, I believe, that a popular uprising is taking shape.
Marcia Selz and her CD5 homeowners coalition taught me a lesson in how community groups can methodically dissect candidates’ backgrounds, records and positions.
They started with a small group interviewing the candidates individually at length and compiled what they learned and the independent research they did into this chart cd5interviews.htm.
Then, they prepared a detailed set of questions for the three moderators to ask and gave each candidate the chance to respond. Development was their No. 1 concern as it is in much of the city.
After the forum, they surveyed cd5survery.htm the participants and came up with the scores reflecting their judgment, not an endorsement.
They also surveyed what participants thought of the process and found 83 percent said they were much better informed and 78 percent said the interviews were very or extremely helpful.
Personally, I felt like I knew a lot — not just from what they said — but from the way the candidates responded which gave me a feel for their personalities. The coalition intends to put the video of the event on the Internet.
I’m not sure every group has someone as organized and detail oriented as Marcia Selz but the basic process could be used anywhere.
In fact, I hope the Saving L.A. Project applies it to officeholders themselves as a means of pinning them down on the issues confronting the citybefore they go into back rooms and make deals and script their public performances.
As community groups come together, we are seeing positive signs of change. The Cultural Heritage Commission vote to grant monument status to Griffith Park, the DWP debate on a Ratepayer Advocate, the Planning Commission push for a ban on new billboards are just a few of the recent events where public pressure have helped move things forward.
Even the lively City Council debate on ballot measures this week shows what happens when the poltiicians see the community is paying attention, getting aroused and organizing.
For a long time, I’ve said i’m not sure if we can change the people but I know we can change the agenda.
I’m now beginning to think we could even change the people. The entry of DWP board president Nick Patsaouras into the Controller race, strong challengers to Weiss for City Attorney and the possibility Rich Caruso will jump into the mayor’s race provide the opportunity to wake up the voters and make a difference.