Voters in the 7th Council District have a refreshingly difficult decision on May 16. The two contenders who emerged from a field of 20 during the primary are both experienced public servants committed to improving the quality of life in the often forgotten northeast corner of Los Angeles.
Either candidate, Monica Rodriguez or Karo Torossian, would be a good representative on the City Council. They couldn't be any worse than the incumbent — there isn't one! Former Councilman Felipe Fuentes quit the job a year before his term ended to become a lobbyist in Sacramento; the district has been represented by a caretaker councilman since September.
Even before Fuentes, residents of Council District 7, which includes the communities of Sylmar, Mission Hills, Pacoima, Lakeview Terrace, Sunland-Tujunga and Shadow Hills, have suffered from inconsistent leadership due to redistricting and rapid councilmember turnover. That's one reason district residents have been frustrated with City Hall. Too many communities lack basic infrastructure, such as sidewalks and street lights, and they haven't seen the same level of economic investment as neighboring districts or the city as a whole.
This is a district that needs a committed representative in City Hall who has a track record of getting things done. Between two strong candidates, Rodriguez has the edge for her extensive resume of service and record of accomplishment. Most recently an appointed member of the city's Board of Public Works, she's practically done it all in local government. She handled community affairs for former Mayor Richard Riordan, then worked on policy and constituent services for Councilmen Mike Hernandez and Richard Alarcon. She's known for being a persistent and effective advocate.
As a deputy to former Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Caprice Young, Rodriguez walked neighborhoods with parents to find suitable locations for dozens of new schools during the district's building boom. She also worked with residents concerned about the impacts, all while navigating the district's notorious bureaucracy. It was good practice for the challenges facing the next council member: how to work with skeptical residents to build homeless and affordable housing in their community.
Although she's backed by top city officials and most of the city employee unions, Rodriguez insists that she is "unapologetically me" and not afraid to buck the political establishment, which she did in 2007 when she ran against her former boss, Alarcon. The Times endorsed her then too.
Torossian is the planning deputy for Councilman Paul Krekorian, and he's an expert in development and land-use issues. As a staff member, he has developed a reputation for being a good listener, a consensus-builder and a policy wonk committed to finding solutions. Voters have a hard choice between two strong candidates. In this case, The Times favors Rodriquez, the candidate who has spent two decades preparing for the job.