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City Council 7th District

Alex Padilla, Corinne Sanchez Vie for Seat in Mostly Working-Class Northeast Valley

May 23, 1999|BOB RECTOR | Bob Rector is opinion page editor for the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County editions of The Times

When it comes time for voters to select a new city council member from the northeast San Fernando Valley, they may have to dig beneath the surface to pick a favorite.

That's because both Alex Padilla and Corinne Sanchez publicly cite long involvement in the community, devotion to providing more city services to residents and a promise to improve the quality of life in the mostly working-class, Latino district, which encompasses parts of Arleta, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sun Valley and Sylmar.

The campaign has focused on endorsements and spending, more than $200,000 per candidate, an ironic sum in the mostly blue-collar 7th District.

Padilla, 26, an MIT grad, has been heavily backed by labor, with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor chipping in nearly $60,000 for mailers and telephone banks. It also turned out 200 get-out-th-vote volunteers in the primary. Padilla cut his political teeth by working for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and state Assemblyman Tony Cardenas (D-Sylmar).

In the endorsement derby, Padilla has secured the backing of Mayor Richard Riordan, City Councilmen Richard Alatorre, Hal Bernson and Rudy Svornich Jr.

Sanchez, 52, is an attorney with decades of experience runninga health clinic for the poor, El Proyecto del Barrio. She has the backing of state Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Sylmar), the former councilman from the district; County Supervisors Gloria Molina and Zev Yaoslavsky, City Council members Laura Chick and Cindy Miscikowski and three of the four candidates in the primary who did not make the runoff.

Padilla tounced Sanchez in the primary, getting 47.9% of the vote to her 24.7%.

The Times recently spoke with each candidate about the issues that shape the election.

Question: What have you found is the biggest issue in your district?

Answer: The biggest single issue is basic city services. Everybody acknowledges those other issues: public safety, economic development, airport, you name it. But nine times out of 10 when I ask somebody, " What is the most important thing to you? What can I do to make the biggest impact on your life?" it is the pothole in front of the house, it is the street light that has been out of service for a couple of months, it is the graffiti across the street, it is the park that is not safe for our kids anymore. It is the quality-of-life services.

Q: Do you feel city services in the 7th District are worse than in other, more affluent areas of Los Angeles?

A: Yes and it is not just today but it has been the case for many years.

Q: To what do you attribute that?

A: It is a combination of things, but it hasn't been a priority for the city as a whole or at least not for representatives of the area. I came into this campaign with the perspective that this district is my home. This is where I was born and raised. I played in these parks, I went to these schools and I go to church here. What do I see? Streets that are cracked and haven't been looked at in more than 20 years.

Q: Has this been because of a lack of leadership?

A: Partly. For me, I'm committed to making it a top priority today and always. When we turn our focus away from these things, then degradation begins.

Q: What about the appetite for secession in your district? Do you think people look at these problems and say we'd be better off if we were not a part of the city of Los Angeles?

A: It comes up very little when I'm precinct walking. It comes up more in political forums and interviews. What I hear is the bottom line. They don't want to talk about secession, they just want to know who is going to fix the streets, who is going to fix the street light.

Q: Do you support the secession movement?

A: My preference is not to break things up, it is making things work. I do support the secession study or at least a fiscal viability study because there are some basic questions that have to be answered in order to make a responsible decision on secession.

Q: Who do you think should pay for it?

A: I think there is a role for the city to pay a part. Certainly, the applicants should pay a part.

Q: What about charter reform?

A: I'm in favor of charter reform because I think it would be better than what we have today. There are a couple of components that I particularly like about it, including the neighborhood advisory councils, the regional planning commissions. But what is important is, how can we implement it and make it grow? Do we have leadership? An interest and participation level in the community that is going to take us beyond what the city is asking us? We need to inspire people to get involved and active so that the residents know what the city is doing, and the leadership and representatives know what the community's real concerns are.

Q: Do you favor a more powerful mayor?

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