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Election Season Goes Into Full Swing in 4th District

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.


Councilmember Tom LaBonge (bottom center), 4th District, was joined by supporters during a campaign kick-off celebration last Saturday. (photo by Edwin Folven)

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.


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12 Responses to “Election Season Goes Into Full Swing in 4th District”

  1. steward says:

    I have met steven box, and an deeply sadly disappointed on how he has hurt his own neighbors to gain on his issues, then slaps us on the back with a giant hi for money for his campaign.

    Tom LaBonge and Tomas OGrady can provide a better and more honest playing field.

    Mr. Box has only been a US Citizen for three months!

    Mr Box is Very Bad Character Example for my children, I will not allow them to be hurt by his back stabbing comments that he has made to other people (in front of them) Shame on you Mr. Box!

    More transparency on budget issues is not going to solve anything; this is a national financial issue.

    Mr. Box is an experienced actor, his wife directs his video shoots, and they screen and delete comments on their various websites; preventing “we the people” from expressing our concerns of his character as a candidate.

  2. Yuval Kremer says:

    Sounds like Steward works for one of the other two campaigns…I guess Stephen is getting some traction and someone is resorting to mudslinging on message boards.

    If you want to make it look real, give us your real full name. Horrible grammar and spelling also doesn’t help your comment seem authentic. Most people support 1 candidate, not 2, so that’s suspect…I guess you want a run-off between O’Grady and LaBonge. Who cares how long Mr. Box has been a US citizen? You never get specific and you drag your (possibly imaginary) children into it. Of course, more transparency on budget issues is a good thing. Our city budget issues have nothing to do with the national issues.

    I hope Beverly Press deletes your comment, b/c it is obviously the work of one of the other two campaigns.

  3. Bob says:

    I originally met Stephen Box through the Neighborhood Council System. We were in the formation process for the Hollywood Studio District NC and I was amazed how much knowledge he had about the election process and the NC system in general – He was almost a walking encyclopedia.

    Then I would run into Stephen at various other outreach and City Dept events, DONE, etc. I found out that he was extremely knowledgeable about the MTA, transportation, and Streets.

    Then I saw him appearing at DWP Commission meeting first speaking about the Festival of Lights in Griffith Park which is “plugged in” by DWP. Stephen was very reasonable and upbeat in pointing out the foolishness of restricting cyclists to the event while allowing a gridlock of vehicles. I know that seems like such common sense (sorely lacking in City Hall), but really shows the hypocrisy of City leaders claiming to be “green.”

    Stephen also took on rate hikes and Ratepayer’s issues with DWP using the latest social networking earning the praise of a lot of people.

    What really locked me in to knowing Stephen was the perfect candidate for CD-4 was how he could do an end run around the bureaucracy at the City, working in a cooperative wave with the individual City employees and others who really new the inside track at City Hall and then taking the information he had to show people how something could be implemented.

    When the City starting raising fees for Community Gardens. Stephen made some great, but common sense arguments as to why to keep them. But more importantly with his insider connections, he showed that the Dept of Rec. and Parks didn’t even own all the land that more than one Garden was on.

    When Tom La Bonge is told that “it can’t be done” by a bureaucrat, he just accepts it.

    Stephen Box on the otherhand doesn’t accept no for an answer and will seek out answers outside of the Box (pun intended).

    The City is teetering on the brink of Bankruptcy and Tom La Bonge has been at the helm for two terms – La Bonge is part of the problem, not the solution.

    It will be refreshing for CD-4 voters to have a proactive leader for a change.

  4. James McCuen says:

    I don’t know where the immigrant bashing came from – We have had enough of that in both the City and Country. Unless you are a Native American, we all have immigrant backgrounds including La Bonge and O’Grady.

    O’Grady, and La Bonge should not have an inferiority complex, but rather be proud of their immigrant roots. It is what makes our Country great.

    The credibility of any message laced with hate should legitimately questioned and raise a big flag. Attacking the messenger is and old and immature way to distract voters from the root cause of major problems in LA made worse by piling anti-immigrant sentiments on top.

    Although the incumbent, La Bonge has been in office for two terms, he refuses to accept any accountability for being part of the team that has taken Los Angeles to near bankruptcy with a historical budget deficit, furloughs, closing of libraries, and reduced service hours for Fire Stations.

    La Bonge also voted to put on the ballot 2007’s Measure R which is allowing him to run for a 3rd term. His vote was a conflict of interest since he would benefit, if elected by further vesting into the Cities Public Retirement plan and would continue with a generous base salary of $178,000 plus generous benefits.

    When someone lumps La Bonge and O’Grady together, I really question the validly of either of those two campaigns.

  5. Valley Guy says:

    Most observers believe Tom LaBonge has been a good and faithful City Hall cheerleader for many, many years. But today’s reality of Fire station “brownouts,” days of library closures, higher and higher trash and parking meter fees, it is truly time that the City has leadership that has the ability to think “outside the box.” Stephen Box has proven time after time, issue after issue, that he does think “outside the box” to the benefit of the residents and taxpayers of this City.

    It has often been said that insanity is repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. On March 8, voters have an opportunity to vote for someone who is not beholden to City Hall way of always doing things and who will actually make the common sense difference we need in 2011: Stephen Box.

  6. David Bell says:

    First, I’d like to commend the Park LaBrea News/ Beverly Press for such a comprehensive introduction to this coming election. Too many in the mainstream press are ignoring this crucial contest.

    As far as the nasty comments are concerned: I’m a little baffled. I can’t imagine anyone who actually knows Stephen Box would say such things about him. I’ve known Stephen for years through the Neighborhood Council system and I can attest to his honesty, integrity and commitment to the people of Los Angeles.

    Stephen Box is a neighborhood guy — a tireless (and I mean tireless!) advocate for the people who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the workings of City government. Tom LaBonge is right about one thing: we need someone who understands City Hall if we’re going to find a way out of the mess the current City Council has created — and no one knows City Hall like Stephen Box.

    Stephen has worked with virtually everyone in City government, forging connections, coercing concessions and stimulating discussions designed to address the needs of the people.

    Tom LaBonge is part of the problem — a two-term member of a City Council that has bankrupted the greatest city in America.

    Tomas O’Grady is a perfectly nice guy — a committed neighborhood activist. But his breadth of knowledge and his plan for the future of Los Angeles are simply not as developed as Stephen’s. Tomas’s focus on City Council salaries is really just a symbolic gesture, that won’t do anything to solve the City’s crisis.

    Stephen Box is the man the City of Los Angeles needs right now. His understanding of the issues is deep and forged over years of hard work in the trenches; his commitment is unwavering; and his plan is comprehensive and detailed.

    What we need is transparency and a commitment to the core values embodied in the City Charter. We need a plan that takes into account realistic data, quality of life issues and rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure — a plan designed for the people, not the big-money interests who have been feeding at the trough for decades.

  7. Shawn says:

    How can one question the character of anyone who volunteers as much time as Stephen Box does, giving this city of his time and talents? I’d love to see anyone sitting around the horseshoe in council chambers put as much unpaid time into the community as Stephen does. It is time people like Stephen get the respect they deserve. If “we the people” are smart, we will make sure that candidates like Stephen win seats at City Hall come March as it is the only way to induce change and have our true voices heard.

  8. Rick Abrams says:

    Perhaps I did not read the article with care, but I did not see focus on the issue which I see as most significant for Council District #4.

    The CRA has been running a multi-million dollar surplus the entire time LaBonge has been on the Council and he has voted for every CRA project. At the same time, he claims the City is broke. LaBonge believes he has no duty to tell Angelenos about the City’s $488 M surplus in its CRA account while misrepresenting that the e city is broke.

    Mr. Box has spoken about the harm that CRA has done and Mr. O’Grady finds the current CRA unacceptable and would totally change the agency.

    The CRA issue is the most important for CD#4 as shown by the Governor’s proposal to abolish all the CRA’s.

    Mr. Box opposes any expansion of Kelo eminent domain, while LaBonge and Mr. O’Grady would support a second attempt to Kelo the city. Kelo eminent domain is where the city council takes someone’s property and gives it to a local developer so the developer can make money. CRA eminent domain is Kelo eminent domain as its gives the seized property to private developers.

    Also, Mr. Box supports LA’s having City Prosecutor who can investigate and prosecute corruption at city hall. Currently the City Attorney may not conduct any investigation of City Hall corruption. LaBonge does not favor a City Prosecutor.

    CityWatch published my article last Friday discussing these three candidates’s positions on these issues. Mr. Box and Mr. O’Grady made extensive written commentary and all voters should be encouraged at their openness and transparency. Sadly, councilman LaBonge was quite furtive and evasive.

  9. James McCuen says:

    Symbolic statements about cutting your personal salary or staff are good because leadership starts at the top, however what voters need today is a bold game-changing plan such as Gov. Brown’s proposal to aoblish Redevelopment Agencies across the State – That is a home run.

    I know that La Bonge supports and voted for the CRA, Eminent Domain for private developers, and forming a new CRA in Atwater Village/NELA.

    So I’m crossing him off my list.

    Where do the other candidates stand on the Kelo US Supreme Court Decision on Eminent Domain and the very same Kelo plan in the CRA in Los Angeles?

  10. Igor says:

    We need real change in Los Angeles. Talking about how much one loves the city is not enough. What we need is someone willing and able to tackle the tough challenges this city faces, and let’s be honest, has face for many years. Tom LaBonge has been representing the district as an elected official and staffer for decades and we continue to face those same problems.

    Stephen Box has proven himself to be a tenacious, knowledgeable, and capable leader working to create change. It’s time to reject the same old campaign promises LaBonge has made for years and elect someone truly committed to fighting for the people.

  11. dale benson says:

    I’ve had the pleasure to work side by side with both Stephen Box and Tomas O’Grady. They are both great, honest, hardworking people, who have accomplished great things. I believe that both candidates are aware of the waste and corruption that is intertwined in the status quo, and will fight hard for change.

    In addition to his extensive experience and knowledge of City Hall and Sacramento politics, Stephen Box is well-known and respected in the urban bicycling community.

    Stephen has fought hard and won many battles in the fight for cyclists rights.

    As Stephen has said, bicyclists are an indicator species of a healthy community. Experiencing Los Angeles on a bicycle opens up a whole new wonderful city, and gives us hope for the future.

    This new wonderful City of Angeles is the one that I think Mr. Box sees too.

    We need this vision in City Hall.

  12. Joey B. says:

    I can’t say that I am surprised that some people resort to mudslinging. Quite honestly: I was expecting it much earlier.

    Stephen Box seems to be the only candidate who does see the need of resorting to such low level, prehistoric measures. – He focuses his time on the positives and the issues. – He is dedicated to bring some order back to CD 4 and City Hall. – That’s a fact and it does speak for itself.

    Box, O’Grady and LaBonge are in the race for different reasons:

    O’Grady seems to push the “I’ve done good with one school” issue, while he neglects others

    LaBonge seems to push his track record in City Hall, which, quite frankly sucks. He has voted each and every time against the people he represents and for those who fund his campaign the most.

    Box on the other hand has pushed each and every issue that is out there. Traffic, DWP, CRA’s misuse of public funds (which, btw has been ignored by LaBonge and only just very recently addressed by O’Grady). The list of issues is long and yet Box seems to know them all and is working on solving the problems logically.

    If logic is not needed in City Hall, then what is?

    Joey B.

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