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Mitch Englander in City Council District 12

Angelenos who live in the far reaches of the San Fernando Valley have long felt neglected by the government on the other side of the hills. This sense of disconnection and abandonment animates the campaign for the open City Council seat in District 12, the northern Valley district that includes Chatsworth, Northridge, Granada Hills and Porter Ranch. So it’s odd that the front-runner among the six candidates should be a consummate City Hall insider: Mitch Englander, chief of staff to outgoing Councilman Greig Smith. Nevertheless, The Times endorses Englander as the best of several good choices to fill the seat.


FOR THE RECORD:
Council District 12: A Feb. 5 editorial offering The Times’ endorsement in City Council District 12 incorrectly described candidate Brad Smith as an engineer. He is a project manager for an engineering company.


Experience in City Hall cuts both ways for the 40-year-old Englander. He knows the bureaucracy downtown as well as the lineups of the umpteen neighborhood organizations in the district. But if he were elected, it would continue a disturbing pattern of political handoffs in the 12th District from an outgoing official to an aide. Smith too ascended to the seat after having served for years as his predecessor’s chief of staff.

Englander’s proximity to Smith has clearly brought him advantages in fundraising. He’s raised an unseemly amount of money: more than $440,000, which is 10 times as much as his closest rival (and more than any other candidate for city office this election). He’s also spent much of the past year serving as Smith’s proxy at events in the district, and now claims to have played the leading role in a number of Smith’s accomplishments, such as blocking the Las Lomas development.

In short, he’s worked the political levers in this campaign like a sharp-elbowed pro, which isn’t surprising, given his background as a political consultant — first at his uncle Harvey Englander’s firm, then on his own. That’s not endearing, but it’s not disqualifying either.

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To his credit, Englander is attuned to the largely Republican district’s needs and attitudes. He’s not as gung-ho about development as his boss has been, nor is he reflexively opposed to growth. And although all the candidates call for aggressive budget cutting, Englander speaks more knowledgably than his rivals about the city’s fiscal problems.

Other candidates in the race have lived in the district longer, have better credentials as entrepreneurs and can make more credible claims to speak for those who believe the district is an afterthought to City Hall. Navraj Singh, a rags-to-riches restaurateur, knows all too well the excessive barriers that the city puts in front of new businesses. And Kelly M. Lord Jr., a real estate broker, Brad Smith, an engineer, and Armineh Chelebian, an accountant, all offer good ideas about governance and development drawn from their work on neighborhood councils.

Englander isn’t the top choice for angry voters wanting to shake a fist at City Hall, or for those eager for an outsider to bring completely new thinking to the council. But he is bright and capable, and seems more attentive to the neighborhoods’ concerns than Smith has been. The Times urges a vote for him.


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