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Next Council's Tangled Ties

March 06, 2003

You think an Amazon rain forest with piranhas is scary? Imagine how Mayor James K. Hahn will feel when former Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks strolls into City Hall as Councilman Parks. Finally, reality TV is going to have some real competition. Tuesday's City Council election gave Los Angeles a government that rivals the cast of any of the "Survivor" series.

Hahn encouraged Parks' entry into politics by ousting him as chief last year. Parks insists he's not seeking to repay the favor. After winning the 8th Council District seat handily Tuesday, he told The Times, "I buried the hatchet a long time ago." That, of course, only heightens the suspense.

Where did he bury it?

The city's new reality series offers plenty of plot lines. Former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa won the Eastside 14th Council District race Tuesday in an upset over incumbent Nick Pacheco. Talk about upsetting: Hahn had backed Pacheco against Villaraigosa, his foe in the 2001 mayoral election.

So did Council President Alex Padilla, in part to shore up already tenuous support for continuing as president. But if Padilla lost Pacheco, he gained an ally through the 6th Council District victory of former Assemblyman and longtime friend Tony Cardenas, newly moved to the San Fernando Valley. Cardenas, however, brings his own tangled relationships to the council: He lost a hard-fought race a year ago to Councilwoman Wendy Greuel and was the go-between for an Indian tribe-funded negative campaign against Villaraigosa in 2001.

Parks too has a history with the council: Eleven of 14 council members voted against hearing an appeal that could have reinstated him as police chief. One, Councilman Dennis Zine, was a longtime LAPD officer, but it's unlikely that the former chief will spend much time admiring the collection of police memorabilia Zine keeps in his office. Zine was once an official of the Police Protective League, which led the charge for Parks' removal. Where's that hatchet again?

Yes, folks, we're talking loads of suspense here, and not just in the mid-city 10th District and West Valley 12th District races, which will be decided in a runoff election May 20.

Will Bernie and Antonio team up against Jimmy -- or battle each other to replace Alex? Will Wendy repay Alex's support of Tony by backing Antonio, even though she's a pal of Jimmy's sister-councilwoman Janice? And, even if the ratings do soar, will Los Angeles survive its new reality?

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