Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

New Boldness Expected on Council

Election of Martin Ludlow in runoff will help boost panel's liberal social agenda.

May 22, 2003|Matea Gold and Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writers

The victory of former legislative deputy Martin Ludlow in Tuesday's runoff election, coupled with the March elections of former police chief Bernard C. Parks and former state legislators Tony Cardenas and Antonio Villaraigosa, is widely expected to infuse the Los Angeles City Council with a new boldness.

When the newly formed council takes office July 1, those four new members will bring with them a combination of political savvy, outsized personalities and a commitment to a liberal social agenda.

Tuesday's other victor, Greig Smith, will replace his former boss in the 12th District, retiring Councilman Hal Bernson, as one of only two Republicans on the already liberal body.

On Wednesday, hours after many council members danced to Kool & the Gang's "Celebration" at Ludlow's victory party, City Hall was buzzing about how the council will change with the new arrivals. Parks is already serving as councilman, having taken over the empty 8th District seat of now-Assemblyman Mark Ridley-Thomas days after his election.

"I'm totally psyched," Councilman Eric Garcetti said. "There will be a progressive bloc of council members ... an even more activist council."

On the agenda: affordable housing, economic development and improved transportation. Public safety will also continue to be a major issue, council members said.

"I think it's a net plus for progressives, no question about that," said Ridley-Thomas, who left the council in November.

With their long records of public service, political know-how and ambitious agendas, many expect the new lawmakers to further embolden a City Council that recently has begun to challenge Mayor James K. Hahn, particularly on his budget proposal.

"Between the combination of term limits and some really larger-than-life personalities that are coming to the council, I think you're going to see a new assertiveness," said political consultant Harvey Englander.

Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook said Hahn is confident he will work well with the council's new lawmakers.

"Everyone has the same goal, and that is making the city of Los Angeles better," Middlebrook said. "And that's the motivating factor in all these relationships."

The new members will also change the dynamics for Council President Alex Padilla, who is fighting off a challenge from Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, thought to be an ally of several of the victors.

The tangled relationships among the council members make it difficult to determine how their alliances will unfold. Parks, who was denied a second term as police chief by Hahn, has joined Padilla in criticizing the mayor's budget in recent weeks. But Parks also is friendly with Villaraigosa, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor against Hahn, who was backed by Padilla.

The council president's strongest ally promises to be Cardenas, his former boss when Padilla was an Assembly aide. Cardenas, the former chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, lost an earlier council bid to Greuel.

Padilla said his new colleagues "may be freshmen, but they're not rookies.

"A former budget chair. A former police chief. A former speaker of the Assembly," he noted. "You begin with a lot of people who know how to get things done."

Villaraigosa, the former Assembly speaker, agreed that he and Ludlow, once his legislative deputy, will approach their new posts with their trademark high-wattage energy.

"But I think we're also very respectful of the fact that there's some good people there, and both of us intend to work with them," he added.

One of the most tangible effects of this spring's council elections may be how it solidified the council's pro-union stance.

After more than a decade of helping candidates capture seats in the state Legislature, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, launched pivotal get-out-the-vote efforts on behalf of Ludlow and Villaraigosa this spring. The labor organization also backed Cardenas but did not mount a campaign on his behalf.

"Clearly, it strengthens their ability to push their progressive agenda," said lobbyist Howard Sunkin, who has wrangled with the unions in the past.

On Wednesday, Miguel Contreras, head of the labor federation, said the twin victories prove the influence of organized labor in local politics, an influence he and other labor leaders will not hesitate to use. Local unions are planning a convention later in the year to develop a set of policies they would like the council to pursue, he said.

"We will give every single council member the right to be our friend," Contreras said.

Ludlow, a former political director of the labor federation, has said that his commitment to union issues will not be his only priority, noting that he was also endorsed by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and other business groups.

On Wednesday, he laid out his plan for the next few months during a news conference at a Crenshaw church with about 40 supporters, including African American clergy, Korean American business leaders and union organizers.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|