(Robert Greene / Los Angeles…)
Los Angeles' 15th City Council District may be the city's most difficult to represent. It has more federal public housing projects; more Environmental Protection Agency Superfund cleanup sites; more heavy industry, including oil refineries; more oil wells, capped and active, than any other council district. It is in the top three districts in the number of gang injunctions and incidents of violent crime. It includes toxic hot spots and public safety danger zones.
With its port, it is Los Angeles' economic engine; but with its contaminated soil in the midst of Harbor Gateway, it is Los Angeles' dumping ground. Near its northernmost point the district includes a forlorn brownfield; at its southernmost point the cliffs are crumbling into the sea.
Unemployment plagues even the neighborhoods near the port, where the canneries are long gone and the commercial fishing fleet has all but disappeared, and where automated shipping, loading and fueling require fewer workers than in former times.
Some of its students attend the city's worst-performing schools, and many of its residents are underserved, after the closure of Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Center, in the region's starkest healthcare desert.
It's widely referred to as the harbor district, but it's a 10-mile journey from decidedly inland 92nd Street in Watts to the closest waterfront in Wilmington. The district is at points only four blocks wide, but it's close to a 20-mile drive from the Watts Towers to the Point Fermin Lighthouse. Some parts of the district are designated by the post office, and even by the residents, as being in the city of Torrance. Other parts are thought to be in the city of Gardena. Resentment against Los Angeles lingers in San Pedro, 103 years after the little harbor town was consolidated into the big city.
In short, serving on the council and giving voice to the people of the 15th District has been and will remain a challenge. Add as well the city's stark budget problems, and it's hard to see how anyone can do an adequate job.
Of the two candidates in Tuesday's runoff, The Times has endorsed Joe Buscaino. We believe the LAPD officer has the potential to grow into a capable and conscientious representative, and that he can bring to needier parts of the district the same energy and ability he has brought to serving his native San Pedro as a senior lead officer.
Buscaino is competing against state Assemblyman Warren Furutani, who has previously served as a school board and community colleges board member. Furutani, if elected, would be the district's first council member to live outside San Pedro, and its first Asian American member in nearly 20 years. But Furutani, for all his experience, lacks a solid record of accomplishment in public office. Buscaino is the better choice.
Buscaino is not immune from criticism. Neither of the runoff candidates — including Buscaino — will explain how they plan to provide the public safety and other services and amenities they promise while still backing a budget that keeps Los Angeles solvent. That's disappointing. Voters have a right to expect more.
At endorsement time, we often must either suppress our reservations about a candidate and make a falsely enthusiastic pitch to voters, or craft an endorsement that can appear somewhat backhanded. The choice for us is easy: We express our concerns. Our goal is not to provide overblown and unearned praise; that's the job of a campaign. Our goal is to examine the candidates, sift through their good and bad points, and to the best of our ability recommend to voters who will best serve them and the entire city. In this election, that candidate is Buscaino.
We did one thing differently this time: We invited voters to listen to some of the candidates' responses to our questions, to help them understand our choice as well as our reservations. Readers can find audio portions of our discussions, as well as the editorial page's compilation of facts about the district and the candidates, at http://www.latimes.com/cd15.