Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky's opponents in the April 11 primary accused him of ducking debates at a news conference outside his City Hall office Wednesday.
Environmental activist Laura M. Lake, transportation consultant Ryan Snyder and political consultant Jack McGrath said Yaroslavsky owes 5th District voters an explanation of his record.
List of Forums
"Zev has said he was ready to campaign, but we want to know when he's going to show up for some debates," Lake said. "He's afraid to face his own constituents."
At the news conference, Lake released a list of five scheduled forums and said Yaroslavsky has not committed to any of them. A Yaroslavsky spokeswoman said the councilman is still considering how to budget his time, but his opponents charged that he is stalling.
Snyder said Yaroslavsky is giving voters the impression that he has something to hide. "If he is not coming out and talking to the voters, we have to wonder if he is concerned about his record," said Snyder, who also released a detailed political position booklet Wednesday.
McGrath, a former Yaroslavsky campaign manager and aide who is running as a write-in candidate, said the councilman is alienating the people who put him in office. "If you don't come out and meet your makers, we will not put up any of your lawn signs," McGrath said.
Mark Slade, vice president of the Roscomare Valley Homeowners Assn., joined the three at the news conference. Slade said Yaroslavsky has failed to return numerous telephone calls concerning a candidates forum the organization is sponsoring on March 16.
Roscomare Valley homeowners have tangled with Yaroslavsky over development of the Hoag Canyon area. Slade, who acknowledged that he is supporting Lake, said Yaroslavsky has a responsibility to participate in campaign-related activities.
"This shows a tremendous lack of respect," Slade said. "And it's a sad commentary on the 5th District. He (Yaroslavsky) has absolutely ignored us."
Michelle Krotinger Wolf, Yaroslavsky's spokeswoman, called Wednesday's City Hall press conference a "publicity stunt." She denied that the councilman is ignoring anyone.
"We will participate in debates as his schedule permits," Wolf said. "He has been speaking to community groups before January, after January, and will continue to do so."
Since Yaroslavsky often schedules his appearances on short notice, Wolf said it is still possible he will participate in one or more of the forums cited by Lake. Despite his critics' charges, Yaroslavsky enjoys the support of most community leaders, Wolf said.
Political observers agree that Yaroslavsky probably has little to fear in the election, but over the past several days he has called press attention to two high-profile events within the district to counter the charges being leveled by his opponents.
On Monday he attended the dedication ceremony for a federally subsidized 50-unit housing project for senior citizens at 1450 S. Wooster St. Maxwell Kaufer, president of the Menorah Housing Foundation, credited Yaroslavsky with helping to make the project a reality.
On Feb. 9, Yaroslavsky joined homeowners in the Carthay Circle area at a press conference in which he announced that a developer had agreed to rehabilitate a run-down home in the area and rebuild another that was illegally demolished. John Baldoni, president of the Carthay Circle Homeowners Assn., said Yaroslavsky helped protect the area from commercial encroachment.
Wolf said Yaroslavsky is constantly working on similar constituent problems, but his opponents contend that the councilman has lost touch with the voters and is more responsive to the developers behind the area's massive commercial growth.
Lake and McGrath have aligned themselves with 5th District residents who blame Yaroslavsky for traffic congestion, commercial encroachment on neighborhoods and other growth problems. Snyder went a step further on Wednesday by releasing a 20-page booklet that details the city's numerous problems and his solutions. Snyder said the booklet is the product of a yearlong study by a dozen urban planners who donated their time to him.
"I can't fault Zev for everything," Snyder said. "Many forces have shaped our destiny. But I have to say that things are not going well."
In his booklet, "Solutions for a Bright L.A.," Snyder says his first priority as councilman would be the creation of Traffic Management Organizations, associations of employers and building owners who would meet to discuss ride-sharing and other transportation ideas.
Snyder opposes Metro Rail and other rail lines on the grounds that they are too costly and are unlikely to attract enough users, but says he would support car-pool lanes on freeways, better bus service, better transportation plans for bicyclists, and other measures.
On housing, Snyder called for new laws making it tough to demolish low-cost units, strengthening rent-control laws to prevent automatic increases on vacated units and transferring slum properties to nonprofit housing organizations, among other things.
Snyder favors better police protection and says he would allocate some funds for citizen patrols. He also supports environmental efforts to protect Santa Monica Bay and would downzone mountain areas to prevent housing development. He would also establish a merit-demerit system to grade the performance of city management personnel.
Snyder said he hopes to distribute about 25,000 copies of the booklet.