Lyle Hall is taking an unusual tack in his campaign against Councilman Ernani Bernardi, who represents the northeast San Fernando Valley. He refuses to say anything bad about the incumbent.
"The American population has just finished being assaulted by the most negative campaign strategies in modern history, and I do not intend to stoop to such depths," Hall, a former president of the Los Angeles firefighters' union, said Thursday while formally announcing his candidacy for the Los Angeles City Council's 7th District seat in the April 11 election.
Hall, a 26-year veteran of the Fire Department, is one of seven people who have signaled their intentions to challenge Bernardi, and the list is likely to grow before filing for candidates closes in February. To qualify for the ballot, candidates need only live in the district, pay a $300 filing fee and gather the signatures of 500 registered voters.
Bernardi, a councilman for 27 years, is favored to win reelection. "All I can say is that I am running," Bernardi said in an interview Thursday. "And I expect to be reelected."
Some of the challengers may be running so that they will be better known when 77-year-old Bernardi eventually vacates the seat. Some Latino political activists plan to run because of the 1986 council redistricting that established a Latino majority in the district.
Speaking at a news conference on the City Hall steps, Hall, 48, said: "I'm running because I'm a better candidate."
"It's not that he's bad," Hall said of Bernardi. "Over the years, Ernie and I have disagreed on a number of issues. But on a personal basis, I like him and respect him a great deal."
Hall, outlining issues expected to dominate his campaign, called for more police, construction of a rail system in the Valley and an end to dumping at the Lopez Canyon Landfill in Lake View Terrace. He did not, however, offer specifics on ways to pay for additional police. Nor did he commit to a specific route for a proposed light-rail system.
Hall, task force commander at a fire station in Mission Hills, said he plans to take a leave of absence from his job Jan. 1 to campaign full time.
Hall, a Panorama City resident, has never run for public office. He served as United Firefighters president from 1976 to 1984. In 1980, the union spent $25,000 in an unsuccessful effort to defeat Bernardi because of his role in a campaign that limited future police and firefighter pensions. Hall has received the Fire Department's Medal of Valor for bravery.
While promising not to make personal attacks on Bernardi, Hall ironically has employed as his political consultant Harvey Englander, known for his hard-hitting campaign mailers.
Others who have expressed interest in running are Irene Tovar, former chairwoman of the Hispanic Caucus of the state Democratic Party; Jose Galvan, past president of the Valley chapter of the Mexican American Political Assn.; Ray Magana, a San Fernando attorney; Al Dib, an Arleta produce wholesaler; David Briones, former student body president at San Fernando High School, and James Braun, an office manager from Panorama City.
The district covers Arleta, Pacoima, Sylmar and parts of Lake View Terrace, North Hollywood, Panorama City, Sepulveda, Sun Valley and Van Nuys.