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Parks openly breaks with mayor over naming gangs

Speaking out when most council members won't, ex-chief also disagrees on subway, school race.

February 17, 2007|Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard C. Parks took positions Friday that differed sharply from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's on gang policy, building a subway to the sea and the local school board race.

Few members of the council are willing, at least openly, to regularly oppose the mayor in public.

But that is not the case with Parks, a former police chief known for speaking his mind, as he did during a downtown breakfast given by the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum.

Most notably, Parks said he did not think it was wise last week for the mayor and Police Chief William J. Bratton to have publicly released the names of the city's most notorious gangs and to have said where they operate.

"When you say these gangs control these streets, I think you are giving them unnecessary credibility," Parks said.

Although he never uttered the mayor's or Bratton's names during the talk, Parks also said that recent statements by public officials -- and Villaraigosa and Bratton are among them -- that the city was the second-safest in the nation sent a mixed message when those same officials were also holding press conferences to talk about the gang problem.

"We have to figure out are we the second-safest big city or are we in a crime wave," Parks said, adding that many of his constituents still didn't believe crime had dropped in their South Los Angeles neighborhoods.

Asked whom he supported in the school board race in South Los Angeles, Parks reiterated his support for incumbent Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte.

Parks says she has stronger ties to the community than her opponent, Johnathan Williams.

LaMotte has vocally opposed the mayor's plan to gain some control over the schools.

Although Villaraigosa hasn't endorsed anyone in the race, Williams is co-founder of the Accelerated School, a charter school in South Los Angeles where Villaraigosa gave his State of the City speech last year.

A board member of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority appointed by Villaraigosa, Parks said the subway to the sea was a concept he supported, but he said the enormous cost of the project -- estimated at $300 million per mile -- also compelled him to look at other transit projects in the pipeline.

"When you talk about that amount of money, you have to talk about priorities and where it fits into the long-range plan," Parks said.

Among other projects worthy of consideration, he said, are the extension of the Expo light-rail line to Santa Monica, taking the Green Line light rail to the airport and a possible rail project along the Crenshaw Boulevard corridor in South Los Angeles.

steve.hymon@latimes.com

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