Style Rather Than Issues Divides Rivals for Westside Council Seat
After a nine-week crash course on the exhausting, sometimes nasty world of local politics, the two candidates running for the coveted Westside seat on the Los Angeles City Council are pressing to reach as many voters as possible before Tuesday’s election.
Neighborhood activist Flora Gil Krisiloff of Brentwood and former cable television executive Bill Rosendahl of Mar Vista have focused the final stretch of their campaigns on their differing political styles and on two key issues -- fixing the area’s wretched traffic and preventing out-of-control development.
Throughout the campaign, Krisiloff, has portrayed herself as a studious, tireless neighborhood activist who sleeps only a few hours each night. Rosendahl says he is a man of the people who will fight as hard for the poor as for the rich.
The political newcomers are running for the only open council seat, which is being vacated by Cindy Miscikowski because of term limits. They have spent about $1.3 million combined on the contest through the end of April.
Rick Taylor, Krisiloff’s campaign consultant, said the race was notable because it would be the first time that the district would elect either an Asian American woman or an openly gay man.
“In either case, it will make history in the city of Los Angeles,” Taylor said.
Rosendahl has accused Krisiloff of trying to make his homosexuality a campaign issue, and laughed off Taylor’s comments.
“The narrowness of his definition of me is obviously where I take offense. I’m a consensus-builder, a problem-solver and a visionary,” Rosendahl said. “When I’m elected you won’t be pressing against the glass, you’ll be in the room.”
In the March primary, Rosendahl received 44.6% of the vote to 41.7% for Krisiloff and 13.7% for a third candidate, Angela Reddock. Because no one reached the 50% threshold, Rosendahl and Krisiloff must face off in a runoff election.
The district includes Playa del Rey, Venice, Mar Vista, Brentwood, West Los Angeles and Pacific Palisades.
The two candidates have spent the last year largely agreeing on the biggest issues facing the district. They both have plans to ease traffic, they both take a cautious stance toward development, and they both can’t tolerate expansion of Los Angeles International Airport.
One of their largest squabbles is over phase two of the massive Playa Vista housing project, which was approved by the City Council last year but now is tied up in court. Rosendahl has vowed to stop it or slow it down. Krisiloff has said that the project is now out of the council’s hands and that she wants to see what the courts decide. Krisiloff, 53, who was born in Hong Kong, is a former public health nurse and longtime neighborhood activist in Brentwood.
She also served for four years on the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission, which helps resolve zoning disputes, and said her biggest accomplishment was halting the potential development of the Veterans Affairs’ Brentwood property.
Rosendahl, 59, is a former cable television executive, most recently for Adelphia.
The New Jersey native is best known for his long-running public access shows, which dealt with political issues and introduced him to city leaders. As the campaign winds up, the candidates are sticking largely to their political messages, as displayed at campaign events last week.
On Wednesday, Krisiloff appeared at the home of Linda and Robert Attiyeh in Brentwood for a meeting of a neighborhood property owners group. Krisiloff delivered her autobiographical greatest hits -- tending to farm workers in Idaho as a nurse, raising three sons -- while also touching on key issues.
The audience perked up when Krisiloff uttered the words “traffic” and “development.”
“A lot of the growth here comes from our children, the result is we’re going to grow here,” she said. “We need to put in the infrastructure so that we can do that. We need leaders to help us grow and change.”
The next evening, Rosendahl attended a similar event at the home of Vickie Casas, 50, of West Los Angeles.
Rosendahl stood on a brick patio and ran through his life’s high points -- he campaigned for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and traveled the world -- and his positions on the issues.
Again, everyone perked up when Rosendahl mentioned traffic.
“No development should be approved until they prove they can mitigate the traffic,” he said.
For the most part, the voters at the events already had made up their minds.In the race for financial support, Krisiloff has maintained an edge throughout the campaign. Through April 30, Krisiloff had raised about $200,086 compared to Rosendahl’s $172,772.
Supporters of both candidates also are spending tens of thousands of dollars to help the candidates with ads and mailers, as well as precinct walkers and voter phone calls.
The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor has spent $63,000 to help Rosendahl, whose campaign also has received $44,200 in support from the United Firefighters of Los Angeles and nearly $49,741 from former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, an old friend.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League has spent $62,139 on Krisiloff’s campaign; the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles has spent $19,049.
In addition, James Thomas, one of the original investors in the Playa Vista housing project, has spent $18,117 on helping Krisiloff and $6,795 for mailers or literature opposing Rosendahl.