Opinion
Reading Los Angeles: Join The Times' new book club
Opinion Endorsements

Jose Gardea in Council District 1

As voters in Los Angeles City Council District 1 seek a successor to termed-out incumbent Ed Reyes, they have two good choices.

Jose Gardea is Reyes' chief of staff and would be more likely to pursue Reyes' planning and service-based approach to representing the constituents of a district that runs from northeast Los Angeles to Dodger Stadium, Chinatown, MacArthur Park, Pico-Union and the edge of Koreatown.

Gil Cedillo is a former member of the Assembly and state Senate whose districts have included some of Council District 1 and also much of downtown Los Angeles and other communities farther to the east. A former labor leader, Cedillo is embraced not just by public employee unions but by business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce.

ENDORSEMENTS: Los Angeles City Elections 2013

Either candidate could do a credible job. Of the two, Gardea is the better choice. He has the vision and the know-how to continue Reyes' sometimes slogging but relentless move toward housing families who were previously packed into overcrowded and outdated buildings, bringing safety to areas once cowering in fear of gang and property crimes, and luring retail establishments to the district to build the local tax base, provide desperately needed employment and serve the residents. The Times endorses Gardea.

On its face, the race between Gardea and Cedillo appears to be the new classic in Los Angeles City Council showdowns: the termed-out Sacramento lawmaker looking for a gig (and at $178,789 a year, twice the salary offered in the Legislature) versus the City Hall staffer who wants his boss' old job. There are parallels, with slight variations, in each of this year's eight council races.

Voters in this district as well as the others across the city often ache for a third way: a grass-roots candidate truly independent of outside interests.

VIDEO: Interviews with L.A.'s mayoral candidates

Too often, though, such a candidate brings heart but insufficient knowledge or experience in running an enterprise as large and as complex as a City Council district of a quarter-million people. Such is the case with Jesse Rosas, a businessman also running in District 1. Rosas clearly wants the best for his district's people but cannot outline a way to deliver it.

Gardea combines an organizer's instincts with a pragmatist's day-to-day experience. His accomplishments as Reyes' top lieutenant include rethinking the Los Angeles River and reclaiming MacArthur Park. He has taken a lead role in creating transit-oriented development and affordable housing. Critics say the focus should have been more on bringing in business and retail and, with them, economic development; but Reyes' team, led by Gardea, saw that he first had to shore up the area's transportation and housing infrastructure or risk continuing a cycle of blind development that could lead, in turn, to new blight.

The district is like one of the Gold Line trains that now run through it: on the right track, although not always moving as swiftly as many would like. The early phases of thinking, planning, organizing and building are over; Gardea can keep the train on track but can also begin to pick up the pace.

Construction and trade unions have mostly bypassed Gardea and have instead joined with business groups in embracing Cedillo, because they see in him a candidate more likely to encourage development. And development is in fact needed in District 1, but it's now more viable because of the thinking, planning, organizing and educating that Gardea has provided. Gardea is well positioned to bring the job to its next phase.

One challenge facing the victor in this race will be the sheer size of the district. Can a council member adequately see to the needs of communities whose interests are as diverse and divergent as Mount Washington and Pico-Union?

No. Council districts are too big. There should be twice as many of half the size. Such a change would empower communities to more directly shape their own destinies.

For now, though, districts are huge, and Gardea has had a direct role in updating the city's planning laws. It's good thinking. Gardea has been good for the district and good for the city, and voters in District 1 should keep him on the job.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Paul Koretz in City Council District 5
    Paul Koretz in City Council District 5

    The incumbent has not always been the leader we might have hoped for, but he is the best choice in this year's race.

  • Stations of the cross on L.A.'s streets
    Stations of the cross on L.A.'s streets

    The Easter story — which will be retold this week from pulpits around the world — also unfolds outside church sanctuaries, in museum galleries and throughout the iconography of western culture. In the Los Angeles barrios that Camilo José Vergara documents, artists named...

  • What exactly is the allure of Islamic State?
    What exactly is the allure of Islamic State?

    “She used to watch ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ and stuff like that, so there was nothing that indicated that she was radicalized in any way — not at home.” So said Sahima Begum in her testimony before the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee in...

  • Ted Cruz's ride on the Obamacare train wreck
    Ted Cruz's ride on the Obamacare train wreck

    When Sen. Ted Cruz, the conservative firebrand from Texas, launched his presidential campaign last week at the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, he earned grudgingly glowing reviews from otherwise skeptical pundits. The very next day he drove straight into a pothole on his already-narrow...

  • The GOP's budget gimmickry won't fix the deficit
    The GOP's budget gimmickry won't fix the deficit

    With Congress on spring break, many House and Senate Republicans will probably spend the next two weeks back home touting the resolutions they passed to "balance the budget" within 10 years. But the competing resolutions for fiscal 2016 won't do anything of the sort, no matter what lawmakers...

  • Justice Clarence Thomas dissents from a voting rights 'victory' in Alabama
    Justice Clarence Thomas dissents from a voting rights 'victory' in Alabama

    Civil rights groups cheered a decision this week in which the Supreme Court revived a lawsuit by the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus challenging the apportionment of the two houses of the Alabama Legislature.

Comments
Loading