By Edwin Folven, 2/14/2013
Herd to challenge Koretz in city’s March 5 election
Incumbent Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz will face one challenger — Mark Matthew Herd — on March 5 in the race to represent the 5th District.
Mark Matthew Herd
Herd, who is running for public office for the first time, said he entered the race to address issues such as traffic congestion and overdevelopment. A longtime Westwood resident who is a founding member of the Westwood Neighborhood Council, Herd said he believes the district should be represented by someone who works more closely with the community. He characterized Koretz as a career politician who is aligned too closely with developers and special interests.
“Quite frankly, I am tired of the status quo. Things need to change,” Herd said. “Paul and I are two different characters. He is a union guy, a city hall insider. It is important to get non-council members into office who represent the stakeholders, like the neighborhood councils do.”
Herd said a major issue in the 5th District is traffic congestion, which he added is tied to overdevelopment.
“[There is] a lot of traffic in the area, and we need a council member who stands up to development. If things are going to work in this city, we have to build out the infrastructure,” Herd said. “One single development can increase the number of commuter trips. I am in this race because my views are echoed by people living all over the district. There are a lot of people who are frustrated.”
Herd said he supports the completion of the Westside Subway Extension under Wilshire Boulevard, and more light rail lines need to be built. He called himself a “grassroots” candidate who entered the race because no other opponents stepped up.
“It has suddenly turned into a real opportunity to turn what would have been a silent election, with no debate, discussion or accountability check for Mr. Koretz, into a discussion of district and city issues,” Herd said.
The 49-year-old candidate described himself as a “fiscally conservative Democrat who is very close to being an Independent.” Herd said he works as a political consultant on campaigns around the country, but declined to offer specifics.
Koretz touted his lengthy experience in representing the local community. He disputed the claim that he works too closely with developers, adding that with every project that is proposed in the local area, he has appealed to the community for input. The 57-year-old councilman was elected to represent the 5th District in 2009, and previously represented the local area in the State Assembly. He also previously served on the West Hollywood City Council.
“I think the most important issue has been my approach to development, which has been more collaborative than with some previous council members,” Koretz said. “I try to get the neighborhood council and the developers to come to a consensus before I give my support.”
He cited a project on La Cienega Boulevard, north of Beverly Boulevard, where a developer is planning to build a 43-unit apartment building. Koretz said there was a lot of opposition from neighbors to the rear of the project, who complained that is was too tall. The councilman said he worked with the developer and the community to have the project reduced. While there are still ongoing discussions about the building’s final height, Koretz said it is an example of his approach toward development.
He also cited his work in trying to reduce the city’s budget deficit, and said he hopes to address the issue of reducing pension costs for new city employees if reelected.
Koretz said he also plans to continue pushing for the completion of the Westside Subway Extension, and that he supports a measure that will also be on the March 5 ballot to increase the city’s sales tax by a half-cent.
“We are facing $200 million in budget cuts, and I believe that will decimate the city,” he said. “We will have to layoff police, we will have to cut back on the fire department more than we already have, and I can see parks closing. I think we have to pass that sales tax increase.”
The two candidates will face off in a debate on Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. at St. Paul’s Church in Westwood, 10750 Ohio Ave.