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ELECTIONS / CITY COUNCIL : Crime and Jobs Top Concerns, Candidates Say : 1st District: Two challenge incumbent Mike Hernandez. The contenders clash over voting rights for non-citizens and term limits for local officials.


In the 1st City Council District, which stretches from fashionable Mt. Washington to the tough streets of Pico-Union, the three candidates running for the seat say reducing crime and creating jobs are the priorities. But while they agree on what needs to be done, they cite different reasons for seeking the office.

The front-runner is incumbent Mike Hernandez, 40, a Cypress Park native and longtime community leader who said he has just begun the job of helping neighborhoods take a more active role in their government. He captured 65% of the vote in a special election 18 months ago.

Challenger Jean-Marie Durand, 40, a business owner and the self-described honorary mayor of Highland Park, likens his candidacy to that of Ross Perot, saying "the people told me to run."

And Esther Castillo Long, a life-long resident of Lincoln Heights and a former City Council and mayor's office aide, says Hernandez has not been responsive to his constituents' needs and that she will "bring service back to the community."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday March 7, 1993 Home Edition City Times Page 4 Zones Desk 2 inches; 61 words Type of Material: Correction
Hernandez endorsements--Because of erroneous information provided by the campaign staff of Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Hernandez, a Feb. 28 story about the race for the 1st City Council District incorrectly reported that he was endorsed by Jovenes Inc. and El Centro del Pueblo. The directors of those groups have endorsed Hernandez, but it is illegal for the organizations to make endorsements because of their nonprofit status.

Hernandez disputes the criticism leveled against him, saying he meets with the community regularly and is working to help a district he claims was created from troubled areas that other council members did not want. The 1st District council representative has "more needs than anyone in the city," he said.

Long said she is qualified for the job because of her 11 years as an aide to former Councilman Art Snyder, whose district included portions of what is now the 1st District, and her six years as an aide in Mayor Tom Bradley's office.

Durand, who owns Jodon Photo Studio in Highland Park, said his business background will help him deal with economic issues.

The two challengers claim to have significant community support and say they plan to raise enough money to run formidable campaigns. However, Hernandez is the only candidate with a campaign chest. He has amassed $58,300 and plans to raise an additional $100,000, while his opponents have not raised any money, according to the most recent documents filed Feb. 1 with the city Ethics Commission.

Two subjects the candidates disagree on are voting rights for non-citizens and term limits for local politicians.

Long and Durand said they oppose giving non-citizens the right to vote. But Hernandez said federal immigration quotas of 20,000 people per country each year unfairly penalize people from nations such as Mexico. Because there are so many Mexican immigrants, some of them have had to wait as long as 12 years to become legal residents, plus five more years to become citizens, Hernandez said. While they are legal residents, he said, they pay taxes and therefore should be permitted to vote in municipal elections.

Durand opposes term limits, while Long and Hernandez support them. Either way, Hernandez said he plans to serve on the council for two more terms, or eight years, if he is elected.

Although the 13-square-mile district includes Chinatown and the established Mexican-American communities of Highland Park and Lincoln Heights, the area's most pressing problems are in the impoverished, high-crime immigrant neighborhoods of Pico-Union and Westlake.

Those two areas accounted for more violent crimes last year than any other part of the city, according to data from the Police Department.

Long and Durand said the district needs more neighborhood watch groups and other programs that rely on community involvement to fight crime. Durand also said that parents should play a bigger role in dealing with their children.

"Most of the harm in this community is self-inflicted, and we can stop it," Durand said.

Meanwhile, Hernandez said he has taken short-term action by closing streets in areas where drive-by shootings and drug dealings have occurred and has supported counseling and job-training for gang members. He said about 50 police officers in the Rampart Division, which covers Pico-Union and Westlake, were reassigned to the department's Central Bureau last year after he questioned police deployment policies.

His two challengers say they support a measure authored by Hernandez that would increase property taxes to pay for 1,000 additional officers. The tax increase would be about $73 for a 1,500-square-foot home.

The measure was narrowly defeated in November but will be on the ballot again April 20.

The four candidates agree that the long-term solution to the crime problem will depend on bringing jobs to a district in which 64% of the adults did not finish high school and 51% of the workers earned less than $20,000 a year, according to the 1990 U.S. Census.

Durand and Long said they would try to secure federal job training funds and work with private industry to provide more jobs.

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