Twelve is company in council race

By Aaron Blevins, 1/31/2013

Candidates vying for vacant seat in March 5 election


The vacant Council District 13 seat has a total of 12 suitors this year, and the candidates have begun the process of introducing themselves to the community through various candidate forums.

Park Labrea News and Beverly Press has profiled eight of the candidates in previous editions of the newspapers. Here are the remaining four.

John Choi

Choi, 32, previously worked as a public works commissioner for the city, and has served as an aide to former City Councilman Martin Ludlow, 10th District, and as a special assistant to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. He also worked as the economic director of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, and believes he has a good combination of experience working inside and outside city hall.

John Choi

“I think that’s really important,” Choi said, adding that he is capable of working with multiple, diverse groups.

With the district facing double digit unemployment, he would like to get the local economy going by making the city more business-friendly, bringing in new industry and maintaining current employers.

“I think there’s an incredible opportunity to expand high-tech jobs,” Choi said. “There’s a lot we can do at the local level to support the growth. L.A. has not done as good a job as it can.”

He said he also wants to maintain the city’s current levels of public safety by pursuing policy and resources that would put more officers in the field and not behind a desk doing paperwork.

Choi said that another major priority is improving the quality of life of residents by creating a diverse housing stock, adding green space, improving transportation options and ensuring access to city services.

“I think there’s an incredible opportunity for people to re-imagine what Los Angeles is,” he added.

An Echo Park resident who emigrated from Seoul, Choi said he would like to see the continued revitalization of the district while sustaining neighborhoods.

“I think we have the opportunity to show how we really can do long-term planning in Los Angeles,” he said.

Choi has been endorsed by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, State Controller John Chiang, Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) and Assemblyman Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles).

Octavio Pescador

Pescador, 42, teaches at several institutions, including UCLA, and is a founding member of the Paulo Freire Institute. He teaches civic engagement, and decided to run for office after his students told him to practice what he preached.

Octavio Pescador

After receiving 31,000 votes in an unsuccessful bid for the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees without much outreach, Pescador said he is now seeking city council office to promote his ideas.

“That’s what motivated me to move into this race,” he said. “Now, it’s a personal project.”

Pescador said he is looking to push for tolerance if elected. He would like to implement anti-bullying and mediation programs for use in area schools, while also offering workshops.

“It may be a term of the 20th Century,” Pescador said, “but it’s applicable to the core of Los Angeles. …In some places, there’s still bigotry.”

Furthermore, he would like to see the district improve its sustainability by promoting healthy eating, increasing the district’s walk-ability and improving residents’ quality of life. Pescador praised the district’s transportation system, but said there are some links missing.

“We have to use those particular advantages to develop an even greater consciousness,” he said, adding that he would like to see more bike lanes and further use of solar energy. However, residents also need to be educated in various ways, such as reasons not to litter. “We need cultural changes as well.”

Pescador said he will also push to ensure that there are “opportunities for all” by fighting for affordable housing, creating incentives for people to not rely on their cars for transportation and pushing for tax breaks for environmentally-friendly businesses.

The Hollywood resident has been endorsed by Richard Walter, the former chair of the UCLA screenwriting department; San Francisco Supervisor David Campos; and Jwyanza Hobson, the student president of Los Angeles City College.

Roberto Haraldson

Haraldson, 53, owns a visual effects representation company in Silver Lake. He formerly served on the board of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, but has never held public office.

Roberto Haraldson

He feels that the city does not have a very strong connection with its respective communities, and would like to open more dialogue with residents regarding changes and developments.

“The complaints tend to be that the city doesn’t necessarily listen to the residents in the city,” Haraldson said, adding that some people believe that officials listen to special interests and developers first. He said government has a responsibility to be transparent. “In a lot of cases, our city leaders have failed to take on that responsibility.”

He said he would like to “fine-tune” the quality of life for district residents by offering better access to the council office, making sure that there is a constant flow of communication and providing a quicker response to issues.

Haraldson said it is very easy to look “at the glossier side” of the district, but lamented that 40 percent of the district’s children live in poverty and the median household income is $23,000. He said the district’s next leader should offer support to those families.

“Those things have to be the highest priority for our district,” Haraldson added. He said he would aim to improve affordable housing and include more low-rent units in new developments.

Haraldson said he would seek to benefit the bottom-line of area residents. He cited his neighborhood council work that resulted in a city ordinance that requires cable providers to offer low-tier cable plans to Los Angeles residents.

“This is the type of thing a community person can do if they’re strong-willed enough,” Haraldson said.

He said he hasn’t sought out endorsements, as they mean little when voters go to the polls. Haraldson said he is more proud of the endorsements he’s received from businesses and residents.

Matt Szabo

Szabo, 36, worked as a deputy mayor and the deputy chief of staff to Villaraigosa from 2009 to August 2012. He also served as the executive director on the Yes on Measure J campaign.

Matt Szabo

Szabo, a Hollywood resident, said he has never run for public office, but hopes to significantly advance public transportation in the district. He hopes to extend the downtown streetcar to Atwater Village, add subway lines or light rail to connect the Red Line at Sunset/Vermont to downtown Los Angeles and connect the Purple Line from Century City to Hollywood and Highland when the Westside Subway Extention project is completed.

“The future of the city is dependent on having a reliable public transit alternative to the single-passenger vehicle,” Szabo said, adding that the district is not served well by politicians telling people to reduce their use of the automobile. “Then, we can talk about reducing lanes of traffic, building more dedicated bike ways and bus ways.”

He also hopes to expand green space in the district, specifically near the L.A. River and the Silver Lake Reservoir. Szabo also hopes to help advance the Hollywood Central Park project.

“It would benefit the residents that need park space the most,” he added. “It would also transform how we view our freeways.”

Szabo said increasing economic development and public safety are also critical. He said he would aim to expand the Mayor’s Gang Reduction and Youth Development Program into more areas of the district. As for economic development, Szabo said he wants to reform the development approval process and make the forms available online. He also hopes to create a local redevelopment agency to replace the Community Redevelopment Agency.

The San Gabriel Valley native has been endorsed by Villaraigosa, former mayor Richard Riordian, former Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg and civil rights attorney Connie Rice.



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