By Edwin Folven, 1/27/2011
Incumbent LaBonge Faces Two Challengers
The race for city council representative for the 4th District went into full swing on Jan. 22 when incumbent Councilmember Tom LaBonge officially launched his campaign. Three candidates are vying for the council seat, and they are all Democrats.
LaBonge has represented the 4th District since 2001, when he was elected during a special election held after the death of former City Council President John Ferraro. He was elected again to four-year terms in 2003 and 2007, and is running for a final term, after which he will be forced out of office because of term limits.
LaBonge joined more than 100 supporters at his campaign headquarters on Larchmont Boulevard on Saturday to make the official announcement, and was flanked by his wife Brigid, Councilmember Janice Hahn, 15th District, and City Controller Wendy Greuel. He pledged to continue his work on issues affecting the 4th District — which includes portions of the Wilshire area, Hancock Park, Hollywood and Los Feliz, as well as North Hollywood and Toluca Lake — and said the area needs a candidate with experience at city hall to move forward.
“I am honored to serve the City of Los Angeles,” LaBonge said. “It’s got to be a collaboration to get the city out of this situation we are in, and I want to remind people how important it is to have someone in city hall that loves this city and loves the people.”
LaBonge said he is passionate about many of the issues affecting the 4th District, such as public safety, responsible development, getting the subway project underway down Wilshire Boulevard, repairing the streets and improving the infrastructure. He added that his top priority is helping to solve the city budget deficit without cutting key services, including the police and fire departments, which are crucial to public safety.
“The number one issue is the experience, as we deal with restructuring a variety of services. Its very important to have someone who represents the interests of all the people,” LaBonge said. “It’s public safety, public works and enhanced economic development. We have got to solve the deficit while creating jobs and steering the city in the proper direction, while trying to enhance the community. That’s how I will work to solve these problems in this very challenging time.”
LaBonge touted his his support for the Westside Regional Connector, known as the “Subway to the Sea”. He said he supported Measure R, a countywide sales tax increase that paved the way for the subway project, and added that the subway will be crucial to the district’s future economic viability. LaBonge added that he is supportive of plans to clean up the area and improve the roads, and pointed to his involvement in promoting the recent “Operation Pothole” initiative to repair streets damaged by the recent rains, as well as recent beautification projects where LaBonge and his staff drove around the district removing trash and discarded bulky items. He also said he is supportive of plans by the DWP to improve its pipeline infrastructure in the district. Many of the pipes are approximately 100 years old, and repairing them is the best way to prevent water main ruptures like the ones that occurred in 2009.
“One thing I have worked on is trying to get the infrastructure improved. There is a new water line off 3rd Street by La Brea that should help, and we are going to keep on working on those problems,” LaBonge added. “Our community has come of age, and repairing major streets is also very important.”
LaBonge is being challenged by candidates Stephen Box and Tomas O’Grady,
Box, a Hollywood resident, has been active in supporting local neighborhood councils, and previously worked as an independent elections administrator for the city Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which oversees the local councils. Box has also been active in the city’s efforts to create a plan to improve conditions for bicyclists, and has created civic campaigns to engage the community, including efforts to address planning and land use issues, project management and transportation. Box said he was also active in the campaign against Measure B, which was defeated by voters in 2009. The measure would have enabled the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) to install solar panels on buildings throughout the city, but opponents claimed it would have provided building contracts to install the solar panels to specific unions that were aligned with the mayor and DWP, creating a monopoly on the projects.
Box added that having an incumbent representing the district is specifically the problem, and added that it would lead to a continuation of the status quo. He said solving the city’s budget deficit would be his top priority, and added that he would work to make the budget process more transparent to the public, and city services more efficient.
“There is nothing to address if we are not fiscally solvent,” Box said. “The second thing is responsible land use. It’s imperative that we have a city plan that we can rely on, development by development. We don’t have a plan, what we have is a lot of project by project battles and we are being pummeled by bad development.”
Box also criticized LaBonge, and said constituents he has spoke with are angry at the current situation in the area. He added that there have to be ways for people to get involved and have their voices heard at city hall.
“I have been going door-to-door, and people are yelling at me, ‘It’s time for a change’,” Box said. “We have a pothole politician in office. A lot of people claim the pothole thing, and all I have to say is, how is that working? We have the worst streets in the country.”
O’Grady, a resident of Los Feliz, said he has lived in Los Angeles since 2000 and has been focused on education and redevelopment. He volunteers at local schools and founded Farm Feliz, an organization that promotes sustainable environmental practices. O’Grady added that his priority is also solving the budget problem.
“Number one is fiscal common sense. Our city is broke, and there are some very simple ideas that can take us back to common sense,” O’Grady said. “The city has given away a great deal to unions without any guarantee of anything in return, or how it will be paid for. The city is owed $200 million to $500,000 million, and we need to create a collections department to go after that money.”
O’Grady added that he believes city council representatives are paid too much — approximately $170,000 per year — and added that there needs to be a change in the way the councilmembers operate.
“I believe in leadership by example,” O’Grady said. “You have no right to ask a street services worker or a librarian to take a cut without first taking a cut yourself. I believe $100,000 is plenty for a councilperson. I am also committed to halving the council staff. They have become a bureaucracy unto themselves. All of these cuts need to come from the top, not core services.”
The three candidates will appear on the March 8 ballot.
For information on the election, visit www.cityclerk.lacity.org.