Los Angeles Councilman Nate Holden--attempting to woo voters in a district where people blame the Port of Los Angeles for pollution, traffic and unsightly junkyards--told a group of Wilmington residents Thursday night that if he is elected mayor, he will curb the growth of the harbor.
"I pledge to you that this program they have in place (to further expand the port) will end," Holden declared. "Your problems will be reduced--if I have to close down the harbor."
He also promised that if elected mayor this spring--the primary is in April with a runoff, if necessary, in June--to appoint new harbor commissioners who, he said, will be more responsive to residents' concerns. When one man said he believed that the community had been making progress with the current harbor commissioners, Holden replied: "Don't be fooled or used. Your problems are not being dealt with."
In his wide-ranging talk before the Wilmington Home Owners, Holden also pledged to beat the city's gang and drug problems. He offered few specifics, however, except to say that he wanted to steer youths into a program similar to that of the California Conservation Corps.
"We're going to break these gangs up," he declared. "Well you say, 'How are you going to do that?' I pledge to do that and it will be done. . . . I want you to know that we're going to clean up this crime. Trust me. . . . If need be, I'll put a black-and-white in front of every rock cocaine house. That's what I'll do."
The one-time state senator and former aide to Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn painted himself as a candidate of the people, an outsider in Los Angeles city government but an insider at the county, state and federal levels. He was elected to the City Council in June, 1987, defeating Homer Broome Jr., a candidate backed by Bradley for the 10th District seat.
While saying he was "not a member of the club"--meaning the insiders on the City Council--Holden peppered his talk with anecdotes about his chats with other public officials, including Hahn, Gov. George Deukmejian and even former President Gerald Ford.
"You want someone who is committed," Holden told about 100 residents at the meeting. "When I want something done at the local level, I get it done because I can talk to the governor. The mayor can't--and won't."
The homeowners had invited Holden to their meeting, just as they invited Bradley last month. Next month, the group hopes to host the remaining candidate in the three-man race, Baxter Ward, a former Los Angeles County supervisor.
The group gave Holden a generally warm reception, although at least one community leader said she was disappointed that he did not offer more concrete solutions to the harbor area's problems.
"I feel tonight that they (those problems) weren't really addressed fully," said Simie Seaman, whose group, the Banning Park Neighborhood Assn., had sent Holden a four-page typewritten list of questions. "I wasn't comfortable with the way they were addressed."
But others seemed hopeful about Holden, who is considered a long shot against Bradley. "He presented like he has a lot of power," said Joe Mendez, who asked the councilman if he would consider pushing the refineries to help clean up Wilmington. "Whether he had that power or not, I don't know."
Said Wilmington Home Owners President Peter Mendoza: "I like him. I agree with him. It's time for a change."
Holden hammered away at the theme of change throughout his talk, often challenging the residents--like a preacher--to shout out the word.
"Do we want change?" he yelled.
"Yes!" the residents replied.
"Then that's what we'll have."