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Foes Clash in 12th District

Political neophytes spar with government insiders on who is best for northwest Valley.

February 11, 2003|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Contenders for the 12th District seat on the Los Angeles City Council agreed Monday on the need to reduce traffic congestion, cut waste at City Hall and reduce the tax burden on businesses but clashed over which candidate has the expertise and vision to accomplish the goals.

The six competitors for the northwest San Fernando Valley council seat continued to trade put-downs in what has become one of the most contentious of the seven council races on the March 4 ballot.

The candidates met before an audience of about 80 business leaders attending the forum sponsored by the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn.

Candidate Rob Vinson, an affordable-housing developer, dismissed fellow candidate Greig Smith, a council deputy, as a "20-year City Hall bureaucrat" and former Assemblywoman Paula Boland as "another termed-out legislator."

Boland responded by saying she got things done in Sacramento, noting that she played a prominent role in passage of the state's three-strikes criminal sentencing law.

"I said I'd do something about crime and I did -- three strikes and you are out," Boland said.

Smith, who won the endorsement Monday of former Mayor Richard Riordan, said he is proud of his 23 years at City Hall, including his work as chief of staff for incumbent 12th District Councilman Hal Bernson, who is prevented by term limits from seeking reelection.

"I consider it a great advantage, so on July 1 when I am sworn in I will hit the ground running," Smith said. "I know how to call the general manager and get the key to the problem you have."

Candidate Julie Korenstein, a Los Angeles Unified school board member, criticized Smith indirectly by attacking Bernson for allowing overdevelopment. She said she would fight to make sure the Valley gets the resources it deserves from City Hall. "The representation by the current City Council person has been horrible," she said. "I will be the strongest, loudest voice to make sure the Valley gets its fair share."

Walter Prince, a founding member of the secession group Valley VOTE, said his experience running a janitorial company will allow him to help the city avoid a looming budget crisis by cutting waste from the bureaucracy.

"The city of Los Angeles is a bloated bureaucratic morass," Prince said. "It's got a lot of deadwood that needs to be cut out of it."

Construction contractor and teacher Norman Huberman said one way to ease the city's economic and traffic problems is to attract more businesses to the Valley so fewer residents have to commute downtown.

"What I'd like to see is jobs closer to our homes," he said.

In response to questions from the audience, Korenstein said less development would relieve the city's traffic problems, while Vinson said the city should pursue more left-turn lanes and develop reversible lanes.

Vinson and Boland said they oppose an increase in the state vehicle license fee to balance the budget. Both said the state and city need to cut non-priority spending and maintain public safety budgets.

Huberman and Smith said they oppose the proposed LAPD policy to no longer respond to unverified burglar alarms.

Smith, a veteran reserve police officer, said the Police Department should charge stiffer penalties for false alarms.

At the same luncheon meeting, VICA heard from the two candidates for the 6th Council District, which covers the central and north Valley: former Assemblyman Tony Cardenas and businessman Jose "Roy" Garcia.

Cardenas cited his six years in Sacramento, where he said his legislation included changing the formula for allocating state school bonds to free up more than $500 million for new schools in Los Angeles.

"I'm running on my record of bringing resources to the Valley," Cardenas said.

Garcia said he will bring an independent voice of advocacy for the Valley.

"I'm not a politician," he said. "My hands are clean. Nobody owns me."

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