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THE SPECIAL ELECTION | LOCAL ROUNDUP

Winning Easily, Wesson Headed for Council

Jose Huizar has a large lead over Nick Pacheco in 14th District. L.A. Unified's bond measure, its fourth since 1997, is also approved.

November 09, 2005|Joel Rubin and Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writers

Voters resoundingly approved a nearly $4-billion construction and repair bond for Los Angeles public schools Tuesday, clearing the way for the school district to complete one of the most ambitious public works projects in the nation.

"This is a truly historic vote," Los Angeles Unified Supt. Roy Romer said. "Los Angeles is making a massive statement that we want to educate our children right. It makes up for 35 years of neglect."

In the election to fill two vacant seats on the Los Angeles City Council, Jose Huizar held a commanding lead over former council member Nick Pacheco in the 14th District. Huizar, a Los Angeles school board member, was backed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and powerful unions.

Early Wednesday, it appeared Huizar might capture the 50% plus 1 vote he needed to avoid a Jan. 31 runoff with Pacheco.

Huizar said that he was optimistic he would win outright. "We're happy with where we are right now and we hope it stays that way and goes up," he said.

Former Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson easily defeated two political novices in the 10th District.

"It's great to be back and I'm excited," said Wesson, who added that he would ask officials if he could be sworn in before the election is certified. "I'm planning on partying a little tonight and then tomorrow going to work."

In other cities throughout Los Angeles County, voters weighed in on measures to create flood-control districts, raise taxes, protect open space and build schools.

Measure Y School Bonds

The Los Angeles school bond will provide money to complete an overhaul and expansion of the nation's second-largest public school system, which is also one of the most overcrowded.

Having won support for three similar bonds worth $9.5 billion since 1997, district officials had expected Tuesday's vote to be close and counted on strong support from black and Latino voters to give the 55% support required for approval.

Araceli Lopez, a 27-year-old mother of three in Boyle Heights, said the bond motivated her to vote for the first time. "Everyone where I live has been talking about it," she said after voting at the Pico Gardens Social Hall. "They were saying it's best for the kids, that they need the new schools. It's the only reason I voted."

A fourth L.A. Unified bond was too much for 36-year-old actor Edward Padilla, who questioned how the district is spending the bond funds it has. "I'm not sure the money is going to where it's supposed to be going," he said.

Hampered by less time and money than in previous efforts, campaign officials for Measure Y made a relatively meager effort to remind voters that more money was needed to finish the construction projects, sending fewer mailers and forgoing valuable polls and focus groups.

But Measure Y won endorsements from scores of politicians and civic groups, including Villaraigosa, and confronted little organized opposition.

Some major civic leaders, politicians and newspaper editorial boards, however, withheld support, questioning the decision to lean on taxpayers less than two years after they approved the last bond.

Measure Y will increase taxes an average of $26.71 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

Scheduled for completion in 2012, the construction project calls for about 160 new schools and extensive renovations to hundreds of others.

The plan, which is expected to cost about $19 billion, aims to remove all schools from controversial year-round calendars.

The reform is viewed as a vital prerequisite to improve instruction in the 727,000-student district, which has struggled to raise low graduation rates and close a performance gap between black and Latino students and white students.

10th Council District

In the Mid-City district race for Los Angeles City Council, Wesson, 53, ran a vigorous campaign against two newcomers, photographer Barry Levine and security firm owner Robert Serrano.

Wesson raised $396,271, while Serrano raised $2,750 and Levine did not solicit donations.

Wesson will fill the seat left vacant when Martin Ludlow resigned in June to become the county's top labor leader.

"The district hasn't had a council member since July and a lot hasn't been done," he said Tuesday night.

"The district needs a cleanup and a face-lift."

Among his goals, Wesson said, was to lure more full-service restaurants to the district, something he said residents want.

A former chief of staff to Councilman Nate Holden and Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Wesson served in the state Assembly between 1998 and 2004. For the last year, he has been a deputy to Burke.

14th Council District

Pacheco, 41, was seeking to reclaim the job he lost in 2003, when Villaraigosa ousted him as representative of the district, which includes Eagle Rock, Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, Highland Park, Hermon, El Sereno and Mt. Washington.

And Pacheco was hoping to avoid losing a potentially career-ending third election in a row.

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