EDITOR’S NOTE; This article, recently published in Nina Royal’s North Valley Reporter community paper, outlines what’s at stake in City Council District 2 election, a brutally gerrymandered district that includes Sunland-Tujuniga and most of the Northeast Valley, a sliver along the Burbank border and then stretches from Studio to Sherman Oaks and takes in parts of other neighborhoods. Candidate filing opened Monday with Paul Krekorian, Chris Essel and Frank Sheftel the first to declare their candidacies to succeed Wendy Greuel in Council District 2. Five other candidates — Pete Sanchez; Mary Benson, Jozef “Joe” Thomas Essavi; Laurette Healey and Michael
McCue — filed later in the day.
By Ron Kaye.
It ought to be clear by now that the City Hall political machine has no intention of giving an inch to the people who live and work in Los Angeles.
Community activists, with help from business and labor, defeated Measure B but that hasn’t stopped the Department of Water and Power’s David Nahai and the IBEW boss Brian D’Arcy from going right ahead and doing whatever they want with a wink and nod from the mayor and City Council.
Then Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich, with the same citizen-labor-business coalition behind him, knocked of the machine’s puppet Jack Weiss so the machine put its greasy arms around the City Attorney-elect in hopes of bringing him to heel and taking the bite out of his teeth.
Along the way we were entertained with the idea that catastrophic budget deficit would actually be solved through a policy of “shared sacrifice,” only to learn the sacrifices will entirely be borne by the public while city employees get a sweetheart deal with enhanced retirement at age 55 and bonus pay raises over a five-year period.
So the battleground for some semblance of fiscal and political responsibility now shifts to Council District 2 race where voters in the heavily gerrymandered district curving from Sherman Oaks to Sunland-Tujunga get to choose a successor to Controller-elect Wendy Greuel.
The machine at first thought it could foist on CD2 the double-dipping former Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, who’s living high beyond her wildest dreams on sinecures from the state and the DWP.
But further analysis showed Montanez was a loser so the political manipulators anointed not one but two candidates to confuse and divide the electorate.
Their picks are Chris Essel, a Westside elitist who has served the machine without blinking on the Community Redevelopment Agency and the Airport Commission, and Democratic Assemblyman Paul Krekorian of Glendale, who’s done such a fine job of pushing the state toward bankruptcy that he’s fully qualified to help the city along in that direction.
How the mayor, public employee unions, developers, contractors and lobbyists divide themselves in support of both Essel and Krekorian is still being worked out but you can be sure they will both be heavily endowed with oodles of campaign cash.
They will need as much money as they can get their hands on since both are carpetbaggers with phony addresses in CD2 but polls show voters – in their ignorance, apathy and defeatism — are less concerned about such matters than whether they recognize the candidate’s name from mailers sent by fictitious groups that appeal to the prejudices.
Far less clear is where that leaves Tamar Galatzan, the school board member who was elected to her position with the mayor’s millions as part of his failed takeover of LAUSD.
Unfortunately for Galatzan, they had a falling out when she opposed giving unaffordable health benefits to 3-hour a day cafeteria workers and other issues that did nothing to improve the quality of education.
Galatzan actually lives is the district and has a lot of knowledge about the issues on the ground from being the City Attorney’s neighborhood prosecutor in Van Nuys. Questions remain about her ability to raise the money needed to overcome the machine candidates and whether she can convince grassroots activists she’s tough enough to stand up to the pressures in City Hall to back every sweetheart deal and giveaway of public money.
Then there’s the people’s candidates, the ordinary citizens who step forward despite the long odds and carry with them old-fashioned ideas of public service.
At one point, it seemed like everyone who lived in CD2 would run but now it appears the citizen candidates are Frank Sheftel, a candy-maker and medicinal marijuana cooperative operator, Mary Benson, a long-time activist with extensive knowledge planning issues and Michael McCue, a Studio City Neighborhood Council leader with a passion for community empowerment as the antidote to machine control of the city.
I confess I like them all but have to admit it’s an uphill struggle for any of them to make it into the top two vote-getters in the Sept. 22 primary and make it to the December runoff where anything could happen.
It’s going to take a groundswell of community support for any of them to break through and stop the machine.
But I’m an optimist and believe the time is ripe for change. And I take heart from the fact that the real campaign for CD2 will start just six months after this election is over since the real election will take place in spring 2011 for a full four-year term.
By then voters will have a pretty good idea about who the citizen candidates are and whether the winner is December actually is serving them.
That’s why it’s so important for activists to get involved now and go to work in hopes of thwarting the special interests’ power play now or, at the least, giving a Council member who serves them in 2011.