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What Really Happened in the CD5 Race…

Editor’s Note: This is the full version of an opinion piece that appeared in the Daily News.

By Danielle Elliott with
Michael Several
Community Correspondents

Paul Koretz was formally declared the winner of the Council District 5 runoff election on Tuesday – a victory that was not surprising except for the slim margin he won by over community activist David Vahedi.

Koretz was backed by the city’s power structure: koretz1.jpgMayor Antonio Villaraigosa, County Supervisory Yaroslavsky, two local Congressmen, the Board of Realtors and several city unions and others who stand to profit from his time on the Council. He had name recognition, serving 12 years in the State Assembly and as Mayor of West Hollywood.  And he outspent his opponent approximately 3 to 1.

But he didn’t win the hearts and minds of nearly half his constituents, particularly homeowners and residents active in trying to make our neighborhoods better.

There were also voter irregularities. Normal polling places were changed at the last minute without notification. Voters were told they were not on the voting role and were not offered provisional ballots. Sixteen precincts were required to vote by mail only and the voters that tried to find a poll to vote only to be turned away.

The closeness of the election says something about the liberal Democratic district and the tenor of the City.

The east side where I live is a mix of residential and commercial – the goal of modern urban planning philosophy.

But city policy, despite the oft-repeated Smart Growth mantra, is causing dramatic changes in the neighborhood.

Little of the new commercial is for the local residents. You don’t see the small markets selling fruits and vegetables and staples or hardware stores or shoe repairs.

They have been displaced by businesses that target people who live outside the area such as restaurants, bars and trendy boutiques, exotic plant shops, and incense and candle stores. These aren’t neighborhood mom and pops. They are owned by outsiders hoping to catch some of the gold from the oversized Grove, Beverly Center and Beverly Connection.

They don’t have the same stake in the neighborhood and attract customers from other areas whose cars clog our streets and take up the limited parking that’s available.

This invasion has given rise to strengthened home owners associations.  And it was here that Vahedi had his support.  The closeness of the election is a testament to the strength of the home owners associations as a political force.

They are voluntary organizations, community based, that are a bridge between people and their government. They are a countervailing force to the influence that money and connections distort public policy. They are seen by developers and government officials as anti-growth, insular and indifferent to the greater good.

But it is not development that residents oppose. It is the nature of the development and corruption of the development process that angers and frustrates the community.

A voice for disenfranchised residents who are true stakeholders in their communities and leadership in a City Council more committed to political theatre than good public policy is what the people who voted for David Vahedi wanted.

In his June 5, 2009, LATimes blog article Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky wrongly called this resident backlash “Anti-Development Sentiment”.  The readily accepted NIMBY terminology disguises the true sentiment of the resident stakeholder—-Anti-Corruption Sentiment. There has been an imbalance in which special interests have used their financial resources to get their way.

The city has created a master plan to control development but routinely grants variances to its own rules  for those with political and financial clout, the same people who funded Koretz’ campaign as they did his predecessor Jack Weiss’.

That’s why residents are angry. There are too many liquor licenses, too many large high density buildings being permitted without sufficient infrastructure and not enough parking or attention to what the community wants.

With such a narrow victory, Koretz does not have a mandate to lead. Like Weiss before him, Koretz could continue down the path he has followed and hope to stay in office with the money and support of outside interests.

But he should take note of the trend. Weiss almost faced a recall and a neighborhood activist almost won the May 19 runoff.

The community is getting stronger and hopefully Koretz will reach out to homeowners and community activists and make use part of his team to balance his leadership and fulfill his campaign promise of standing up to special interests.

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5 Responses to What Really Happened in the CD5 Race…

  1. Anonymous says:

    Within six months, Koretz will wonder why he ever wanted the job.

  2. Chris Rowe says:

    I do not live in CD 5. I am aware of the race – I was at one of the CD 5 debates at the Encino Neighborhood Council.
    I understand all that was written above – I do know that there has been trouble with both the March 3rd election and the May 19th election.
    While David Vahedi was “No on Measure B” and Paul Koretz was “Yes on Measure B”, when we, the Neighborhood Councils went to the Budget Committee en masse, Paul Koretz came that day and spoke on behalf of the Neighborhood Councils.
    He told me that he was involved at the beginnings of the NC’s – I wasn’t, so I can’t verify that.
    But for a person who has been in the State Assembly, I have to say – this is a modest man, a humble man. For all of his accomplishments, you would never know what he has done if you just met him.
    Our new councilmember is walking into a City at its worst – a City that cannot balance its budget.
    Let us hope that his experience as a former Mayor and Assemblymember will help our City Council make better decisions during this Budget crisis.
    I have taken the time to read the Wiki on Paul Koretz. Now that he is our new Councilmember, I for one, want to give him a chance.
    Welcome to our City Council – Councilmember Koretz. And President Garcetti – we need him on the “Energy and Environment Committee” please to take the place of Councilmember Greuel.

  3. Sally says:

    Only someone outside of CD 5 like Chris Rowe can make these positive comments. Koretz was in the Assembly at the time the Neighborhood Councils were formed. Despite what he said, he didn’t have anything to do them. He did, however,join the Mid City West Neighborhood Council when he carpetbagged into our District.
    Those of us in the District know that this Council is one of the most politically corrupt councils in the City led by gutless political want-a-be Andrew Lachman.
    Koretz said and did whatever he had to in order to get elected. He said he would not take money from developers and he did.
    To find out who the contributors to the Friends of Paul Koretz committee are, the voter must go to the Secretary of State website. Here is a Link to the Friends of Paul Koretz Committee:
    http://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/Campaign/Committ…
    [Click on “Contributions Received”, then Click on “Historical” and then pick the years you are interested in, for example 2006. You will see that contributors to the Friends of Paul Koretz Committee include a variety of corporate, labor and professional groups (lobbying groups and trade groups), as well as individuals. Among the givers were:
    J.H. Snyder Co.(developer)
    Clear Channel Outdoor (billboard company)
    Casden Properties LLC (developer)
    Jeffrey Haber (LA City registered lobbyist)
    Seymour Consulting (LA City registered lobbyist)
    So, Chris..It’s big of you of to wait and see you are not a stakeholder in our community.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I agree with first commenter and Sally jumping on Chris R for now towing the HOA party line of “all incumbents are evil because they’re not our puppets like Vahedi would have been” is a case in point.
    These bitter people will never forgive Koretz for NOT being Vadehi, a nice-seeming guy but who would have been utterly at their bidding.
    They will do everything in their power to undermine him. In a way it will be good (though bad for Koretz) because it will show what is REALLY going on in CD5.
    The fact that HOA’s and many NC’s purport to represent the district instead of the elected CM is the biggest fraud perpetrated on our city and I don’t care how many little wanna-be dictators from NC’s and HOA’s jump on me.
    In my CD5 NC, the meetings are never attended by anyone other than the board members themselves unless it’s some party involved in a land use issue, usually a developer. These 18 or so people are the same ones who recycle for every position, elect each other, but NO ONE in the general community knows who they are or has the SLIGHTEST idea that these little egos purport to represent them. They are almost all older, retired people, though some are ambitious wanna-be pols who want to be able to claim NC “experience”
    There is NO requirement that they represent real residents or homeowners, they can just claim to. This allowed one woman to cobble together a sham “Coalition of 50 HOA’s” which purported to go one step further and claim to rep the whole CD5, and the pathetic excuses for papers which have seen our long-time, knowledgeable writes like Steve Hymon and Duke fired and replaced by ambitious and utterly clueless newbies and those with political axes to grind who are easily spun. Of course this woman and her group of manipulative, and frankly dishonest haters, acted as political lobby without registering and we are VERY lucky their puppet Vahedi didn’t win.
    That is why I’m glad that Koretz, who frankly is a mediocre politician and disappointingly DID seem to be all over the place with his views on development and promises, won instead. At least he’s got a mind of his own and answers to the people as a WHOLE, not these manipulative, scheming HOA and NC “heads” who will now do everything in their power to make his life miserable. And if possible, kill his career.

  5. Chris Rowe says:

    Well, this City is run by many politically ambitious people. I have run into many with money and with ambition.
    What I have said is this – the election is over.
    Paul Koretz has won.
    I agree that there are people who get money from all sources to run for office. That is why we need to take money out of the process.
    Only when we get “Clean Money” campaigns going can we level the playing field.
    Personally, I think that City Council members should be required to disclose prior to every vote whether they have any conflicts of interest -
    no matter how small. Some Council members do not feel that a $500.00 campaign contribution means anything. But what about the smaller amounts that we do not see disclosed? What about the other parties and events that these people attend, etc.
    Only the Neighborhood Councils would seem to be free of any conflicts of interest. And if they have any, they must disclose them, and they must recuse themselves from voting on that issue. This should be true of the City Council as well.

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