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It's Time to Think Legacy

April 04, 1999

In many parts of Los Angeles, voters are witnessing the end of a political era, the final City Council races for longtime incumbents in the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th districts, all of them facing voter-imposed term limits. The 10th District is a special case, one in which The Times believes that incumbent Nate Holden should be replaced by challenger Madison T. Shockley. The rest of the incumbents face fairly light opposition and are expected to win easily. Leaving aside various ambitions for higher office, here is what they ought to do, if elected, to close out their council careers on a positive note. Council, think legacy.

2nd District: Joel Wachs has held this San Fernando Valley seat since 1971. Wachs is at his best (and worst) when he has a crusade, such as his good effort to publicize the inner workings of the Staples Center Arena deal. That's fine, but there is trouble brewing at home. Wachs can provide the most service by convincing district residents that they do not have to secede from Los Angeles in order to be well served.

4th District: John Ferraro is the council's president and its grand old man, having gained his seat in 1967, when Lyndon B. Johnson was president. Ferraro's "to do" list includes more redevelopment in North Hollywood and getting ahead on street and sidewalk repairs. That's hardly broad enough. Here's something that really would be a feat: getting council members to act collectively in the city's best interests.

6th District: Ruth Galanter has held this Westside seat for 12 years and plans to continue fighting Los Angeles International Airport expansion in her district. She needs to provide more leadership to solve the need for better airport services throughout the region.

8th District: Mark Ridley-Thomas has held the seat since 1991. He deserves congratulations for the initiatives that have brought welcome redevelopment to his district. The most promising of them all, the city's bid to land a new National Football League team at the Coliseum, would bring in hundreds of related businesses and jobs; it would be a citywide benefit. Future goals include four more retail centers in the 8th District, several child care centers and senior citizens complexes and park rehabilitation. Ridley-Thomas would do well to finish those jobs.

12th District: Incumbent Hal Bernson, in office since 1979, has been something of a puzzle. Pushing for tougher building codes after the Northridge earthquake of 1994 was a good if obvious idea; the councilman needs to think bigger. Moreover, he seems to worry more about the mayor's powers under charter reform than about the possible dissolution of the city.

The need and desire for change in city government and improvements in leadership could not be more evident. These veteran officeholders have the opportunity during one last term to steer the council toward governing the whole city rather than merely seeking a bigger share of the pie for this or that district. They have nothing to lose now and the city has everything to gain.

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