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Fears of a Yaroslavsky Political Dynasty Arise : Elections: The councilman's wife considers running for his 5th District seat. She has support and a dilemma.

June 19, 1994|JOHN SCHWADA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In an interview, Barbara Yaroslavsky said she expects to discuss her possible run for his council seat with her husband soon. "We have been so busy with the election (for the Board of Supervisors) that I haven't sat down with Zev to go over the pros and cons of it," she said.

Although she said she was not fully prepared to discuss all the factors she considers relevant to the debate, Barbara Yaroslavsky remarked on a few of them.

"I think there'd be a comfort with me (as a council candidate), because I've been involved with the community and all sorts of charitable activities over the years," she said. She currently serves on the governing board of the LA Free Clinic, on the Metro Board of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation Council and on the executive board of the Bureau of Jewish Education.

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"In my own right I've done a lot," Barbara Yaroslavsky said. On the other hand, if her husband, who lives and breathes politics, were to contend that her entrance in the race might reflect badly on him, "I'd have to take that into consideration," she said. "But I don't see that happening at all."

And if her husband advised her not to run, how would she react?

"He wouldn't say that," she said. "That's not the way our relationship works." Others who know the couple agree.

But there are those who are convinced Zev Yaroslavsky privately does not want his wife to seek his seat.

"I don't think he's enthusiastic at all about this," said one knowledgeable source active in Westside political circles. "It could be that he thinks it would hurt him politically or that he doesn't want to share the spotlight."

When asked recently about his wife's prospective political career, Yaroslavsky refused to comment. "Talk to my wife," he has said. Inevitably, talk of Barbara Yaroslavsky's candidacy raises the dynasty issue.

"This is not a hereditary monarchy," scoffed one critic, who, nevertheless, asked for anonymity.

But Cerrell and other observers say such gut-level biases can be deflected in large part because Barbara Yaroslavsky appears to be an independent-minded and credible candidate in her own right.

Certainly there will be those who resent a Barbara Yaroslavsky candidacy regardless of her qualifications, but there are plenty of examples of politically successful dynasties, Cerrell added, citing the Kennedys and the Brown family in California.

"I just don't see it as a problem," Barbara Yaroslavsky herself said last week, contending that opportunities for her and her husband to coordinate their powerful positions to achieve ends that are at odds with the public interest would actually be limited. County and city government activities don't overlap that much, she said. "There's too much independence," she said. "They'd have to feed off each other for there to be a dynasty problem." And if there's a fear that she and her husband would be monolithic in their view--that's unjustified too, she said.

"Zev doesn't come home and chew over what he's doing at work all day," Barbara Yaroslavsky said. "He doesn't bring it home. He doesn't come to me to ask me what to do and I don't go to him and ask him what to do."

But at least one critic, who asked that he not be named, said conflicts between the city and county jurisdictions do arise over a variety of issues, including, for example, the allocation of parking ticket revenues and transportation dollars. It has got to be messy when the decision-making is being made under one roof, this critic said.

Still others, like Sandy Brown, the Westside activist, say the issue runs even deeper, striking at the issue of fairness. "My concern really is what kind of arm-twisting will Zev do to get her elected," Brown said. How many people with business at the county will want to deny a powerful supervisor's wife a campaign contribution and their support? Brown asked. And after Barbara Yaroslavsky, who's next? "Their teen-age daughter?" Brown sarcastically quipped.

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