Don't sit this election out. It's true that there's no high-profile mayor's race or marijuana ballot measure, but Tuesday's election could lead to one of the most significant changes to local government in years. If Charter Amendments 1 and 2 pass, city and school board elections will move, beginning in 2020, from March and May of odd-numbered years to June and November of even-numbered years — to coincide with state and federal elections. The idea is to increase the dismally low number of people voting in local L.A. elections.
But, wait, there's more. If the amendments pass, the city and school board officials elected Tuesday (or in the May 19 runoff) will serve an extra 18 months in office on top of their regular four-year terms in order to switch to the new 2020 schedule. So, choose candidates wisely, because they could get a super-sized term in office.
The Times spent more than a month researching the issues, interviewing candidates and attending debates. Here are our endorsements, in summary form. The full text of each is available at latimes.com/endorsements.
Charter Amendments 1 & 2: Yes. Over the last decade, voter participation in city elections has ranged from 10% to 34%. It's bad for democracy — and it empowers special interest groups — when so few Angelenos are making the decisions for everyone. The fastest, easiest way to increase participation is to change the election dates to coincide with gubernatorial and presidential elections.
City Council District 2: Paul Krekorian. Incumbent Krekorian deserves credit for being a thoughtful, cautious watchdog of the city's finances, and he gets good reviews from neighborhood leaders in his East San Fernando Valley district as a responsive, problem-solving representative. Sometimes Krekorian needs to be more forceful on the council, but he's a far better choice than his opponent, Eric Preven.
City Council District 4. Sheila Irani. The race to replace termed-out Councilman Tom LaBonge drew 14 candidates, many of whom were intelligent, articulate advocates for the district, which includes Los Feliz, Hancock Park, the Hollywood Hills and Sherman Oaks. Irani stands out for her experience, ideas and independence. She is a small-business owner who also worked as a deputy to LaBonge for two years, learning how to navigate the city bureaucracy and deliver on community needs.
Council District 6: Cindy Montañez. In this rematch between incumbent Nury Martinez, who was elected 18 months ago in a special election, and Cindy Montañez, we prefer Montañez. A former assemblywoman who has also served on the planning commission and worked for the Department of Water and Power, Montañez is a policy wonk with insight into L.A.'s most complex agencies.
Council District 8: Marqueece Harris-Dawson. Termed-out Councilman Bernard C. Parks is easily the most independent and fiscally conservative council member. Dawson is not a Parks replacement, but rather a new, different voice for the South L.A. district. His work at the not-for-profit Community Coalition shows he is a thoughtful, savvy organizer, able to mobilize the residents to demand action from city government. We question his economic development strategy — stepping up public sector hiring in the district — but his talent and energy make him the best pick for the job.
Council District 10: Herb Wesson. Wesson, the incumbent — and president of the City Council — is perhaps the most wily political operator in City Hall. It's not always clear that he is using his skills for the benefit of his constituents in Central L.A. and the city as a whole. But his challengers are not up to the job, and Wesson has had enough successes in his district that he should be reelected.
Council District 12: Mitchell Englander. Englander is the only Republican on the council, and his northern San Fernando Valley seat is so safe that he is unchallenged in this election. When he is reelected, we'd like to see him be a more vocal advocate for fiscal responsibility and efficiency in City Hall.
Council District 14: Gloria Molina. The termed-out Los Angeles County supervisor would bring independence and fiscal conservatism, as well as a track record of advocacy for her communities. Incumbent Jose Huizar has done a good job on urban planning issues and developing walkable, bike-friendly communities. But Huizar, who was entangled in a sex scandal that cost the city thousands of dollars, has shown bad judgment. It's time to bring in new leadership for this downtown and Eastside district.
Board of Education District 3: Tamar Galatzan. In her years on the board, Galatzan has often taken independent positions and asked the right questions. But she reflexively followed John Deasy and failed to vet his plan to buy an iPad for every student. That mixed record gives pause, but her challengers did not articulate a stronger vision for the district.
Board of Education District 5: Andrew Thomas. Both challengers are stronger than incumbent Bennett Kayser, who has been a constant vote against reform and charter schools. Our choice is Thomas, an educational consultant and LAUSD parent, whose job entails studying what works in schools and what doesn't.
Board of Education District 7: Richard Vladovic. As president of the school board, Vladovic has tried to lead by common sense, rather than ideology, but he has too often ended up blowing with the prevailing winds. Still, he is better equipped to serve than his challengers.
Community College District trustee seat 1: Andra Hoffman is an administrator and part-time teacher who understands the world of higher education.
Community College District trustee seat 3: Sydney Kamlager has a deep understanding of how community colleges can better serve minority and special-needs students.
Community College District trustee seat 5: Incumbent Scott Svonkin has been a strong advocate for transparency, oversight and financial prudence.
Community College District trustee seat 7: Mike Fong is a policy wonk with a focus on improving the colleges' job training and placement.