Yaroslavsky Backs Interim Appointee for Council : Politics: He is concerned that his district will not be adequately represented when he leaves in December to join supervisors.
Worried that his constituency would be without a leader, departing Los Angeles City Council member Zev Yaroslavsky said this week that an interim lawmaker should be appointed when he steps down in December.
Yaroslavsky said he fears that a leaderless period--which could last as long as seven months--would hurt critical efforts to put earthquake-battered Sherman Oaks back on its feet. “That’s the risk,” the 5th District councilman said during an interview this week with reporters and editors at The Times.
Yaroslavsky has been receptive to the idea of establishing a redevelopment project in Sherman Oaks to finance the rebuilding effort, a move that would be enormously complicated and prone to failure without strong council leadership.
So as an antidote, he said the City Council should adopt the novel approach of appointing an interim lawmaker after Yaroslavsky takes up his new duties as a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The 45-year-old career legislator was elected to the board in June.
“The 5th District would undoubtedly be better protected during this interim period if it had a council member who had a vote,” he said. “That would be the best of all possible worlds.”
Such an appointee--who Yaroslavsky said must have no long-term political ambitions--could advance and protect 5th District interests and possibly deter other council members from stripping the district of resources.
Yaroslavsky leaves city office Dec. 5 after serving 19 years.
After that, district residents would be without representation until mid-1995, the earliest date when a successor could be elected to Yaroslavsky’s seat. His four-year term ends June 30, 1997.
Yaroslavsky said former state Sen. Alan Sieroty and retiring Supervisor Ed Edelman are the kind of elder statesmen who ought to be appointed, although city law bars Yaroslavsky from picking his successor.
Experienced representatives such as Edelman and Sieroty would be well-equipped to guarantee that 5th District residents got their fair share from City Hall, which Yaroslavsky described as a “crab barrel” of competing interests.
Edelman said Tuesday that he was flattered by Yaroslavsky’s suggestion.
“But I’m looking at other plans in retirement,” he said. “I’m not looking forward to going back to the City Council.”
Edelman served on the council from 1965 to 1974. Yaroslavsky was elected to the City Council to fill the seat Edelman vacated when he joined the Board of Supervisors in 1974. It is now also Edelman’s seat on the board that Yaroslavsky is taking.
Yaroslavsky acknowledged that it would be difficult for the City Council to find and agree upon a politically disinterested but City Hall-savvy appointee.
But if the council does not pick an appointee, Yaroslavsky said, he would use his own powerful post as a county supervisor to assist district residents. “I’ll be just up the street,” he said.
Unless the City Council breaks with its past, it is not very likely that members will honor Yaroslavsky’s wishes.
In the last three decades, vacant City Council seats have been filled by election, not by appointment, although the City Charter gives the council the authority to do either.
The last council appointment was made in 1966. Since then, 10 council vacancies have been filled by election.
Until an election is held, council districts without a representative are run by the city’s chief legislative analyst, an appointed office. But the analyst has no vote in council matters. And since the analyst is a City Council appointee, it could be difficult to maintain strong representation for the affected district if there is conflict among council members.
Yaroslavsky said he has not raised the idea of an appointee with council colleagues, but some say they have already heard about it.
Councilman Joel Wachs, one of the council’s most veteran members whose district once included Sherman Oaks, said he did not like the idea.
City Councilwoman Laura Chick, who represents the western San Fernando Valley, said she was “sympathetic” to Yaroslavsky’s concern. “His absence will leave a void for the people in Sherman Oaks,” she said. “I’m certainly open to having a dialogue about his idea.”
Yaroslavsky denied that he wanted his wife, Barbara, to be appointed to the position.
“That’s not what I have in mind at all,” he said.
Barbara Yaroslavsky has previously acknowledged that she is exploring the possibility of running for election to her husband’s seat. Yaroslavsky told The Times staff this week that his wife would be a “very formidable candidate” if she enters the race and a “great council person” if elected.