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Council Races : Long Shots Fight Odds Against Upset

February 05, 1989|RICHARD SIMON | Times Staff Writer

One is a minister who is also a stockbroker. Another is a former stripper who last ran for mayor--and lost. And another is a firefighter who earned the Fire Department's Medal of Valor for rescuing three police officers involved in a shooting.

They are among 23 long-shot challengers to five entrenched Los Angeles City Council members who represent parts of the San Fernando Valley. Candidates had until Saturday to submit 500 signatures and pay a $300 filing fee to qualify for the April 11 ballot.

Councilman Ernani Bernardi faces eight challengers; council members Joy Picus and Mike Woo, six each; Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, two, and Councilman Marvin Braude, one.

Some of the challengers, such as slow-growth activist Laura Lake, who is opposing Yaroslavsky, and Picus challenger Peter Ireland, an aide to a county supervisor, say they are running because they are concerned about crime, development and other issues in the community.

Others have different reasons.

"You get to learn a lot selling hot dogs on the street and talking to people," said vendor Mort Diamond, who is challenging Picus for her $58,592-a-year council job.

Bucking the Trend

History, however, is not on the side of the challengers.

Only three times in the last 12 years has a council member failed to win reelection. In all three cases, the challengers had raised money in the six-figure range. And the incumbents had angered large numbers of constituents.

This year's challengers to Picus and Yaroslavsky hope to take advantage of growing homeowner discontent with the incumbents' record on development. Just two years ago, another political newcomer, Ruth Galanter, ousted veteran Councilwoman Pat Russell on a wave of anti-growth sentiment.

Bernardi, the council's senior member with 28 years of service, faces a large field of challengers because of the 1986 council reapportionment, which put him in a largely new district with a Latino majority.

3rd District

In the West Valley's 3rd District, Picus' potentially strongest opponents are Ireland, the son of actor John Ireland and a deputy to County Supervisor Deane Dana, and Jeanne Nemo, a Republican activist who is backed by County Supervisor Mike Antonovich.

Nemo, a former teacher who sells real estate, ran against Picus in 1985 and finished second in a field of five with 21% of the vote. Picus won with 56% of the vote. Candidates need more than 50% of the vote to win the April election. Otherwise, the top two vote-getters will meet in a June runoff.

Besides Ireland, 42, and Nemo, 59, Picus is opposed by Diamond, 57; Ron Rich, 40, a car salesman; Todd Landis, 36, a restaurant manager and co-owner of the Country Club in Reseda, which the council recently stripped of its liquor license with Picus' support in response to neighbors' complaints, and Paul McKellips, 29, marketing director of an executive search firm.

The district extends roughly from Balboa Boulevard to the western city limits between Roscoe Boulevard and the Ventura Freeway. It includes Canoga Park, Reseda, Tarzana, Warner Center, West Hills, Woodland Hills and west Van Nuys.

Unhappy With Picus

"In all of the homeowner meetings that I have attended, and I've gone to many, there is widespread discontent with Picus over the development issue," Ireland said. Dana has not decided what role, if any, he will play in the race, said an aide to the supervisor.

Nemo contends that Picus' political stock has fallen since the last election, but she has not taken a formal poll. Antonovich has sent a letter to his supporters urging them to contribute to Nemo's campaign.

Homeowner leaders who have clashed with Picus say the 12-year councilwoman is vulnerable because of her vacillation on whether portions of Canoga Park should be renamed West Hills, her support for development of cultural facilities in the Sepulveda Basin and Warner Park, and her slowness in coming out against the proposed Warner Ridge office project.

"I definitely think she's slipped on the popularity scale," said Milena Miller, president of the Reseda Community Assn. Miller said she has voted for Picus three times, but this year plans to vote for one of her opponents, though she has not decided which one.

Miller said Picus has lost support in Reseda because of her unwillingness to rule out the building of a ground-level light-rail line that roughly parallels Chandler and Victory boulevards between North Hollywood and Warner Center. The proposed route, one of five under consideration, has drawn strong opposition from residents.

"It looks to a lot of the people along that route as though she is a lot more concerned about development of Warner Center than residents who would be affected," Miller said. Picus said she wants to wait for a study on whether the environmental impacts of building such a line could be mitigated.

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