L.A. Councilmember Nithya Raman and prosecutor Ethan Weaver spar in Valley debate

Deputy City Atty. Ethan Weaver, left, and Councilmember Nithya Raman took part in a lively candidate forum in Sherman Oaks.
Deputy City Atty. Ethan Weaver and Los Angeles City Councilmember Nithya Raman took part in a lively candidate forum Wednesday in Sherman Oaks.
(Michael Blackshire / Los Angeles Times; Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Welcome to L.A. on the Record — our City Hall newsletter. It’s David Zahniser, catching you up on some of the events from the past week in city politics.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Nithya Raman and Deputy City Atty. Ethan Weaver have taken part in a handful of candidate forums over the past few months. But Wednesday’s showdown, hosted by the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn., had an extra edge to it.

Seated before a crowd inside a San Fernando Valley senior center, the candidates in the March 5 election tangled over homelessness, policing and other hot-button issues. They were subjected to rapid-fire questions, including a lightning round. And they made clear that the race for the 4th District, which straddles the Hollywood Hills, will only get more intense in the coming weeks.

Weaver, who spent five years as a neighborhood prosecutor, portrayed city government as a dysfunctional, broken mess — one that is ignoring residents’ “legitimate concerns” and falling short on the delivery of basic services.


“As someone who works with almost every city agency, I can tell you, the view from the inside is even worse,” said Weaver, who lives in Hollywood. “Our city is failing at so many levels.”

Raman defended her record, saying her office has made progress adding traffic signals, upgrading playgrounds and getting homeless people housed across the district, which stretches from Silver Lake to Reseda. She rattled off locations in Studio City, Sherman Oaks and elsewhere that once had encampments and are now free of tents.

“We’ve made progress in this district while other districts have gone backwards. There’s a reason for that,” said Raman, a resident of Silver Lake. “It’s because our office and our team has brought its full self to the table every single day.”

The third candidate in the race, software engineer Levon “Lev” Baronian, did not participate in the debate, which was attended by more than 250 people and had 400 observers on Zoom, according to event sponsors.

The videotaped debate, moderated by television journalist Phil Shuman, featured other policy disagreements. Weaver spoke in favor of Mayor Karen Bass’ deal to give police officers a four-year package of raises, saying the increases would help the LAPD address a steady decrease in the size of its workforce.

Last month, the LAPD reported that it had 8,970 officers, a reduction of about 800 from December 2020, when Raman took office.


The police contract “was a critical piece in retaining officers and attracting officers, and my opponent voted against that pay increase,” said Weaver, who has been endorsed by the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that negotiated the contract on behalf of nearly 9,000 officers.

Raman said she voted against the raises last year because they were too expensive and would cut into other essential services. The agreement has been identified as a cause of the city’s growing budget shortfall — and isn’t helping with police hiring, she said.

“Our last recruitment class is one of the smallest it’s ever been for LAPD — it’s just 22 people,” she told the audience.

Shuman asked the candidates if they support the reelection of Dist. Atty. George Gascón, who is seeking a second term and running against 11 challengers.

“Absolutely not,” Weaver said.

Raman told the audience she has not endorsed Gascón. Asked to elaborate a few days later, she said she has not decided how she will vote in that contest.

The candidates also sparred over 41.18, the section of the Municipal Code that bars homeless encampments from taking hold in certain “sensitive” locations. Weaver repeated his support for the law, including the provision that prohibits tents from going up within 500 feet of schools and day-care centers.

Raman said she supports parts of 41.18 but argued that newer additions to the ordinance — such as those that allow the council to create 500-foot buffer zones around libraries, senior centers and other locations — simply push homeless people down the street.


Banning tents around schools and day-care centers “doesn’t work,” Raman added. “I don’t think a kid’s going to be safer because a tent is 500 feet away from a school.”

Expect more back-and-forth in the coming weeks. The next candidate forum, hosted by the Los Feliz Improvement Assn., is set for Thursday at the Autry Museum of the American West. All three candidates are scheduled to attend.

State of play

— DUI PLEA: State Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, who is running for an Eastside seat on the Los Angeles City Council, pleaded no contest Friday to a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence of alcohol. Deputy City Atty. Adam Micale agreed to drop a second charge of driving with a blood-alcohol count of .08% or higher. As part of her plea, Carrillo will attend a three-month driving-under-the-influence program, and her driver’s license will be restricted.

— SANTIAGO AD DROP: One of Carrillo’s rivals in the March 5 election, Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, released his first campaign ad, a 30-second video with visuals of the state lawmaker walking past homeless encampments and talking to construction workers. The ad, which features a gorgeous drone shot of City Hall — says Santiago will bring “real change” to L.A.

— DE LEÓN TUSSLE: Yet another candidate in the 14th District race, Councilmember Kevin de León, is taking aim at City Atty. Hydee Feldstein Soto, accusing her of politicizing her position, according to Politico. De León, who has criticized Feldstein Soto over her handling of activists who have disrupted his events, pointed out that she has donated $900 each to the council campaigns of Carrillo and Santiago, his opponents. Feldstein Soto did not provide comment for that story.

— CASHING OUT: The Times took a look at the buyouts that are offered by landlords to get tenants to move out of their apartments — a phenomenon sometimes known as “cash for keys.” Data released by City Controller Kenneth Mejia’s office reported that nearly 5,000 such agreements were filed with the city between 2019 and 2023.


— CHIEF SEARCH: The Board of Police Commissioners, the civilian oversight panel appointed by Mayor Karen Bass, has begun its search for an interim chief to oversee the Los Angeles Police Department. LAPD Chief Michel Moore plans to step down at the end of February.

— STREETS PEOPLE: The advocacy group Streets for All, which has been pushing for fewer traffic fatalities and more bus and bike lanes, issued a round of candidate endorsements this week. The group is supporting former Ethics Commission President Serena Oberstein in her race to unseat Councilmember John Lee in the Northwest San Fernando Valley, Raman’s race for a second term in her Hollywood Hills district and Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson‘s bid for a third term in South Los Angeles.

— CD10 FORUM: Four candidates in the race for the 10th District will appear at a forum hosted by the Neighborhood Council Sustainability Alliance, which focuses on measures the city can take to combat climate change. Pastor Eddie Anderson, Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, former city commissioner Aura Vasquez and attorney Grace Yoo are slated to appear. The group will also host a conversation with Oberstein, the candidate running to unseat Lee in the Northwest Valley.

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Quick hits

  • Where is Inside Safe? Bass’ signature program to move unhoused people indoors returned to Hollywood this week, focusing on Cahuenga Boulevard at the 101 Freeway. That was the location of the first Inside Safe operation in December 2022.
  • On the docket for next week: The City Council’s budget committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss L.A.’s financial outlook and how to balance the books while accommodating raises for various public employees.

Stay in touch

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