Six years ago, Paul Krekorian had to scramble through a dense field of candidates to win a special election in the 2nd District, the City Council seat representing the east San Fernando Valley neighborhoods around Studio City and North Hollywood. He's had a considerably easier time as an incumbent, facing a single challenger in 2011 and in this year's campaign. That may speak more to the daunting power of incumbency than to Krekorian's record as a steady but understated voice for fiscal responsibility and responsive government. Either way, Krekorian is again the better choice for district voters.
The 2nd District is suburban and dominated by moderate-income earners, more than 90% of whom commute to jobs outside its boundaries. Residents here aren't fighting to stop skyscrapers or gentrification. Instead, their issues are smaller bore, such as oversized houses and multi-unit buildings on small lots.
Krekorian — who previously served in the state Assembly and on the Burbank school board — gets high marks from some neighborhood council leaders for his attentiveness to local issues. One notable example is his work helping developers and Studio City residents negotiate more effective limits on mansionization than the city's loophole-ridden Baseline Mansionization Ordinance. Others, though, say that while he's been responsive and a reliable supporter of their issues, he's not been the leader they hoped he would be.
That has been true of his work on the council as well. Krekorian is smart, knowledgeable and occasionally right when most of his colleagues are wrong — for example, when he protested the council's rush to raise the minimum wage for hotel workers. But being right is not the same thing as prevailing; Krekorian has shown he can slow down a wrongheaded council majority, but not necessarily turn it around. Nevertheless, Krekorian deserves credit for holding the line on spending and helping to steer the city through tough fiscal times as chairman of the council's budget committee, even if the city needs bolder fiscal reforms.
His opponent in the race is Eric Preven, a writer and producer from Studio City who ran unsuccessfully for the county Board of Supervisors last year. Intelligent and detail-oriented, Preven is best known for hectoring the supervisors for more transparency. He's hit on a similar theme in the council race, criticizing Krekorian for accepting donations from proponents of a controversial development — a new parking garage, athletic field and pedestrian bridge at the Harvard-Westlake School — without disclosing their connection to the issue.
Preven argues that he'd be smarter with the city's money than Krekorian has been, and more likely to shake things up around City Hall. The latter seems certain, but it's not much of a qualification for a seat on the council. Krekorian's work on the budget and on the district's quotidian needs earn him another term. With luck, his experience in the last six years will prompt him to be a more forceful advocate in the future.