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Of 14 candidates, 3 stand out in race for L.A.'s 2nd Council District seat

Other possible candidates to replace Wendy Greuel include neighborhood activists from Studio City, a North Hollywood candy maker and a Valley Village importer, among others.

July 12, 2009|Maeve Reston

Los Angeles voters showed a profound disinterest in the civic election in March when just 18% turned out, but there was a virtual stampede of candidates this week to run for the San Fernando Valley seat of former City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, who won the race for city controller.

The slate of 14 candidates for the Sept. 22 special election reflects the varied geography of the 2nd District, which stretches from Studio City and Sherman Oaks at its southern border, through Van Nuys, Valley Glen, North Hollywood and Sun Valley to the rugged reaches of Sunland-Tujunga at its northern edge.

The competitors include a North Hollywood candy maker, a Valley Village importer of Italian pizza ovens and cappuccino makers, neighborhood activists from Studio City, Sun Valley and Van Nuys, a two-time school board candidate, and City Hall gadfly David "Zuma Dogg" Saltsburg -- all of whom must now collect at least 500 signatures to qualify. The deadline to file for the race was noon Saturday.

With just two months to raise money, a number of City Hall watchers are eyeing several strong contenders: former Paramount Pictures executive Chris Essel; state Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, a Democrat who lived in Burbank until moving this spring to Valley Glen; and Los Angeles Unified School District board member Tamar Galatzan.

"It's kind of a three-horse race," said David Fleming, former chairman of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. "It's going to be a money race and obviously they are all going to be out hustling for dollars."

A number of the candidates said they expected the debate to center on residents' problems concerning development, alleviating the city's gridlock and luring jobs to L.A. Essel, vice chair of the California Workforce Investment Board, said she hopes to champion efforts to retain film industry jobs. She is touting her private sector experience and efforts to increase jobs at Paramount, where she spent three decades.

"We need to look at establishing Los Angeles as a film-friendly city; we don't have that reputation right now," said Essel, who until recently was an appointee to the Board of Airport Commissioners.

Krekorian, who was elected to the Assembly in 2006 and recently became assistant majority leader, said he also plans to focus on retaining small business and film industry jobs. Earlier this year, he helped shepherd tax incentives through the Legislature to keep entertainment jobs in the state and reward small businesses that hire full-time employees.

The state's fiscal crisis, however, made it "extremely hard to pursue a positive agenda," he said, adding that he felt he could more effectively address concerns as one of 15 at City Hall rather than one of 80 in Sacramento.

Galatzan described similar frustration with the pace of change on the LAUSD board. She was elected in 2007 after receiving at least $2.2 million from a campaign committee controlled by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has not signaled whether he will endorse anyone in the race.

Galatzan said she felt compelled to address what she views as the deteriorating quality of life in the Valley.

"The average resident sees their [Department of Water and Power] bill skyrocketing, they see a lot of police officers doing clerical work . . . they see dirty park bathrooms, reduced offerings at our parks and they see increased trash collection fees," said Galatzan, a deputy city attorney based in Van Nuys. "There's a growing frustration out there, and as someone who lives and has worked in this district, and has raised kids here -- that's how I feel most of the time."

Several candidates, however, questioned whether voters would look favorably on Galatzan's and Krekorian's decisions to leave their current jobs.

Some also took issue with Krekorian's and Essel's recent moves into the district. Though both have roots in the Valley, they filed paperwork with the city clerk's office stating they had been residents of the district since May.

Several other candidates, including Michael McCue of the Studio City Neighborhood Council, said they hoped to be a voice for residents who feel their leaders have muscled in large-scale developments over their objections.

"We're stuck for generations with these poor development decisions," he said.

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

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