At a candidate forum Saturday, Parks dismissed the criticism as "ludicrous" and noted that he did not set the rules for his salary or pension. After serving the Police Department for nearly four decades, he added, "I think I deserve the pension I earned."
In his district, Parks gets mixed reviews. Many share the frustration of Kathryn Wallace, a retired corrections employee from Leimert Park, about the lack of progress on Marlton Square, a 22-acre development that has been stalled for decades.
"If he's done anything about that, it's his secret," Wallace said, even though Parks recently held a news conference announcing that the project had emerged from bankruptcy.
Parks waves off complaints about economic development by noting that his district was the only one to see job growth between 2007 and 2009, in part because of the openings of venues like Maverick's Flat, a soul and R&B club, and Buffalo Wild Wings.
When Parks is engaged, as he was on a recent precinct walk, he makes a compelling case for himself. For several hours, in a tan 8th District ball cap and Nike sneakers, he moved at brisk pace through the Canterbury Knolls neighborhood.
Kinikki Guy, a California Department of Transportation worker who met the councilman on his walk, said that under Parks' leadership, she has seen more beautification projects, festivals and activities. The big hit in her household was the snow that Parks trucked at Christmas for children to play in.
"I see the community changing," she said.
But Parks has alienated others with his aloof and sometimes abrasive manner. At a recent candidate forum, he chided an older woman who had shouted out for him to answer the moderator's question: "This is not your party," he told her as a low murmur rippled through the startled crowd.
When the councilman hosted a recent breakfast for preachers at the Expo Center, he greeted his guests at the door. But when it came time to eat, he sat alone at a table in the front of the room, flipping through a packet of information about services that he hands out to constituents.
In the case of rank-and-file union members, Parks is counting on his sharp-edged candor to win him votes. As he sought the backing of Service Employees International Union, Local 721 at its headquarters last month, Parks reminded city workers that he too had been a union member and that he was trying to ensure the city's fiscal stability.
But he also said he would vote again for layoffs this year to whittle down the $350-million deficit, a move he said he believes will spare the majority of city employees "inhumane" cuts.
"People came up afterwards and said you're the only one that speaks to us like we're adults. You're the only one that never lies to us," Parks said.
They politely walked him to his car. And a few days later they endorsed Hogan-Rowles.