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City Council District 2 debates intensify as September 22 election approaches

Posted By Karen Young On September 17, 2009 @ 12:06 am In News,spotlight,Stories | 1 Comment

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The Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council (SONC) hosted a forum at Sherman Oaks Elementary School for the ten City Council District Two candidates on September 14. Photo: Angela Fentiman

angela-fentiman90BY ANGELA FENTIMAN

Community members from L.A.’s Sherman Oaks neighborhood filled the auditorium at Sherman Oaks Elementary School Monday to hear from the candidates hoping to represent them (and the rest of the Second Council District).

Prior to the start of the forum, hosted by the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council, President Jill Banks Barad hoped that attendees would, “hear what the candidates have to say and learn the differences between them.”

The field of ten candidates is full of diversity, but solidly divided between what have been called the big three (Chris Essel, Tamar Galatzan and Paul Krekorian) and the remaining seven known as the grassroots candidates.

Grassroots candidate Frank Sheftel made the distinction clear in his opening comments, calling himself the “community candidate.” Other grassroots candidates Mary Benson, Augusto Bisani, Joe Essavi, Michael McCue, David “Zuma Dogg” Saltsburg and Pete Sanchez also deliberately distinguished themselves as citizens and not politicians.

Candidates Essavi and Saltsburg in particular drew loud cheers from the audience with direct jabs at the candidates currently holding office.

“I will ask candidates who want to run for another office while in office to pay for the special election [to fill their open seat],” Essavi said.

The comment was directed at current officeholders Galatzan (who serves on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education) and Krekorian (who is a State Assemblymember).

Krekorian and Galatzan focused on their experience as public servants and the fact that they both represent portions of CD 2 in their current positions.

“Now is not the time to have someone learn on the job,” Krekorian said.

Despite some heated monologues and blatant criticisms of fellow candidates, the overall atmosphere of the forum was informative and focused on the pressing issues facing the City of Los Angeles, and Council District 2 specifically.

Galatzan told attendees that it is important for the city to start collecting taxes and other debts it is owed, but that it was also time to examine how the city spends its money.

“We cannot afford to be all things for all people,” Galatzan said.

Being a neighborhood council event and with the majority of candidates active in the groups, the topic of the powers and role of the councils was a recurring theme. All candidates stressed their desire and willingness to working closely with the neighborhood councils.

“Neighborhood councils should be the eyes and ears for the council office,” said Essel

McCue (a member of the Studio City neighborhood council) received rousing applause and cheers when he told guests that, “the city will not respect neighborhood councils until we elect one of our own to City Council.”

When asked about the term smart growth many candidates were skeptical of what one called a “buzz word,” but most agreed that the key to effective development in the district included an understanding of the infrastructure’s limitations.

“I’m for responsible development,” said Sanchez. “You have to ask the question, can the infrastructure handle the proposed development?”

Benson echoed Sanchez’s comments, saying that she supports what she calls sustainable development or “building to the capacity of infrastructure.”

The candidates also discussed how to better incorporate neighborhood councils in emergency response plans and what qualities the candidates would like to see in the next LAPD chief, with nearly all candidates calling for a hire from within the force.

Former Assemblymember Richard Katz served as the moderator for the event, strictly holding candidates to time limits. He tried to get the candidates to answer as specifically as possible, something candidates typically do not like to do.

“The candidates don’t like to get too specific because that’s when you get people angry,” Katz said.

The special election to fill the open Council District 2 seat will take place on Sept. 22. If one candidate does not receive enough votes to win outright, there will be a runoff election on Tues., Dec. 8.

The Second Council District seat which represents the communities of Lake View Terrace, La Tuna Canyon, North Hollywood, Shadow Hills, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Sunland, Sun Valley, Tujunga, Valley Village, Valley Glen and Van Nuys has been vacant since July 1, when former L.A. City Councilmember Wendy Greuel took office as city controller.

To learn more about the  ten candidates, read the My Daily Find candidate profile here.

Angela Fentiman is a freelance writer and public relations professional who has represented clients across all sectors—nonprofit, government and business. She has a master’s degree in public administration (MPA) and a B.A. in communication. Angela can be contacted at angela.fentiman@gmail.com.

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