The City Council member representing the 5th District must serve as a strong voice for preserving the quality of life of his constituents but must also be a vocal advocate for the greater needs of a city facing chronic fiscal shortfalls. The incumbent, Paul Koretz, has not always been the leader we might have hoped for, but he is the best choice in this year's race.
Both Koretz and his challenger, campaign consultant Mark Matthew Herd, are well versed on the issues that matter to residents of the district, which stretches from Westwood to Beverly Hills and across to the Hollywood Hills, and from Encino to just south of the Santa Monica Freeway. Each has a sensible vision for dealing with local development, arguing for limited growth that balances the economic interests of neighborhoods — i.e., keeping and creating jobs — with the need to control traffic and curb the proliferation of marijuana dispensaries.
But voters must cast their ballots for someone who can also grapple with issues beyond the district's boundaries. That's why The Times endorses Koretz.
Herd, though bright and capable, lacks a firm grasp of citywide issues. He supports pension reform but offers no workable ideas to accomplish it. He backs retroactive changes to existing pension plans to reduce what the city must pay in. But that would probably land the city in court, while doing little to remedy the immediate budget shortfall.
With Koretz, voters will be assured of a representative who is capable of advancing the district's agenda alongside the city's broader concerns, including public safety and affordable housing. When a majority of the City Council called for drafting new regulations on electronic signage, he opposed the proposal, rightly noting that it put the billboard companies' interests ahead of his district's and the city's. And he has been a constant and humane advocate on animal welfare issues, helping push through a law to ban pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits obtained from any supplier other than a shelter or rescue group.
Our biggest concern with Koretz is his lackluster leadership on fiscal issues. He's been an honest voice on the council but not always a fiscally prudent one. For instance, he supports Proposition A, a measure on the March ballot that would raise the city's sales tax by half a cent, which may sound like a responsible way to balance the budget but is problematic given that new contract negotiations are coming up with the city's unions. Filling the budget hole with new taxes now would make it less likely that the council would seek or receive the concessions on pay and benefits it needs. Koretz has pledged to win concessions from the unions in those talks, and we hope he will.
In the end, however, it is Koretz's experience on the council and in the Assembly that gives him an edge over Herd, who, though enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the 5th District, has yet to demonstrate that he is also capable of taking on a broader role in shaping the city.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times