Voters in the Los Angeles City Council's 5th District, which sprawls from the Westside across the Santa Monica Mountains into the San Fernando Valley, are fortunate to have a real choice and competition in the April 11 election to replace Zev Yaroslavsky, who was elected last year to the County Board of Supervisors.
Two candidates are well-known in the district, two are not. It is one of the candidates who is lesser known--although, we hope, not for long--who most impresses. His name is Mike Feuer. His vision and his specific ideas about how to improve life not only in the 5th District but in the city as a whole make him the strongest candidate in a competitive field.
Feuer until recently was executive director of Bet-Tzedek Legal Services, which provides legal services to poor, disabled and elderly clients. In contrast with the turf-oriented meanderings of some present City Council members, Feuer's group has distinguished itself by offering a broad array of legal aid to people throughout the city. That includes help to victims of Alzheimer's disease, San Fernando Valley victims of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, small business owners hurt by the 1992 riots and elderly South-Central Los Angeles homeowners victimized by scam artists. In the meantime, he doubled Bet-Tzedek's budget (to $3 million) while relying less on government grants.
Feuer is also familiar with legislative affairs, having worked with Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) on a bill that protects Holocaust survivors' benefits.
Feuer has proposed ethics reforms, such as prohibiting council members from accepting campaign funds from contributors that have business before the council. Should the June police bond issue that would build new stations fail, he would propose the creation of police substations in a district that currently has none. Both are excellent ideas.
Barbara Yaroslavsky, wife of the former councilman who ably represented the area for nearly 20 years, has undeniably strong name identification. She has been a community activist and has worked with Neighborhood Watch. But she expresses only vague ideas about what she would like to accomplish as a council member and how she would make it happen. Roberta Weintraub, once known as a strong opponent of school busing, emphasizes her record as a longtime member of the Los Angeles Board of Education. While that is relevant, she has been less successful in articulating why she should be elected to the council. Jeff Brain, a businessman and activist in Sherman Oaks, has limited experience in other parts of the district.
Feuer would bring a fresh, energetic and committed voice to the City Council. The Times endorses him.