February 20, 2013
Los Angeles' 3rd Council District covers much of the southwestern San Fernando Valley, and the race there to succeed termed-out Councilman Dennis Zine parallels election matchups in other districts, featuring as it does a would-be transplant from the Legislature, Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, and a City Hall employee, Steven E. Presberg.
But there is a twist to what has become the usual template for council races: Presberg, an attorney, is no council staffer, and rather than representing the status quo, he rails against it. As for the other candidates, who have emerged from the neighborhood council system, all bring the desire to serve the district and yet most fail to present a workable platform for actually doing it. Except for one, attorney Joyce Pearson.
So for those voters who want neither a Sacramento import nor a City Hall usual suspect — and who prefer to send an angry message about a political system that too often preselects their candidates for them and leaves them stuck with bad options — there is a real choice. Those voters could back Presberg or Pearson.
But the goal shouldn't be to send a message. It should be to select among the candidates running and pick the one with the best background, know-how, intellect, desire and ability to serve the district and the city, regardless of where that person comes from. Presberg and Pearson are standout candidates, but the best choice is Blumenfield. He's not just another guy from the Legislature but instead has background serving the area as a representative of the federal and state governments. His expertise and record of service are unusual, and voters — even those irked by a pattern of lawmakers moving from the Legislature to the City Council — shouldn't pass up the chance to select such a person for the council. The Times endorses Blumenfield for the City Council.
The 3rd District includes the communities of Woodland Hills, Canoga Park, Reseda, Tarzana and Winnetka. Warner Center is a major healthcare, office and retail hub and is in a sense the West Valley's downtown. Development and resulting traffic congestion are big issues in the area. Canoga Park has seen a renaissance, and businesses and residents in Reseda have been hoping for something similar but face a challenge due to the elimination of the Community Redevelopment Agency. The task is in part to ensure continued economic growth without giving way to the kind of poor planning that has created a traffic nightmare on the city's Westside; to keep gangs and crime from enlarging their current foothold; and to preserve the high quality of life, relative to that in many other areas of the city, that residents currently enjoy.
And the council representative must do all that while being a voice for fiscal pragmatism in citywide matters.
Blumenfield worked for the residents of this part of the Valley as a representative of then-Rep. Howard Berman, first on Capitol Hill and then, in the wake of the Northridge earthquake, in the district. He is widely cited by business and community leaders as a guy who could cut through red tape to get funding to areas affected by the quake — areas that otherwise could easily, without aid, have become ghost towns. He spent his time in the Assembly on projects such as getting funding for renovation and widening of the 405 Freeway — money that the state repeatedly passed up until he arrived and used his knowledge of Capitol Hill to get the job done.
As chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, he had a major role in getting the state past its budget mess. He's a liberal, but he recognized when it was necessary to cut spending, and how to mitigate the impact of some of those cuts on people by recognizing when federal matching and grant dollars were available. Those are skills badly needed in City Hall.
Presberg's focus is on more global change at City Hall, and he is correct that employee pensions could, if left unchecked, overcome all other city programs. As one of the principal drafters of the current City Charter and as an assistant deputy mayor and then as an investigator in the Personnel Department, he has practical knowledge and experience to go with his critique of the status quo. And he brings what too few other candidates offer — the conviction that council members should think citywide and not focus exclusively on their own districts. But the approach leaves Presberg with less of a program than other candidates for dealing with actual nuts-and-bolts, quality-of-life issues in the district.
Pearson grasps the importance of economic development and its relationship to real estate development: The district cannot thrive as simply a bedroom community.
But it's Blumenfield who is best positioned to bring the district what it needs while attending to the citywide budget crisis. He's the candidate who would best serve the district and the city.
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