Five candidates seek to replace termed-out L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar in the 14th District, which snakes in a backwards “C” from downtown L.A. through Boyle Heights and El Sereno to Eagle Rock. Voters are fortunate that among them are two who have the skill and temperament needed to do this demanding job well.
One of them is Cyndi Otteson of Eagle Rock, a marketing professional and president of a nonprofit. Having spent three years as vice president of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, Otteson is deeply versed in the granular functions of city government, and is known for her calm and courteous management of contentious public meetings. Her experience in helping build Miry’s List, a nonprofit that helps newly arrived refugees to settle in to their new communities, shows she can see problems and create solutions. She also has forward-thinking positions on homelessness policy, public transportation and housing.
In a race against opponents with her level of expertise and experience, Otteson might easily win The Times’ endorsement. But this year she is up against an opponent with a much heftier resume and a more substantial track record. He is Kevin de León, the former president pro tem of the California Senate. During his 12 years serving the neighborhoods of CD 14 in the Legislature, De León racked up a long list of impressive accomplishments.
Many Californians will remember De León as the fiery leader of the state’s “Trump resistance” who challenged U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the 2018 election. We didn’t support De León for that job, nor did the voters. It wasn’t the right time to change leadership in that important post, regardless of how well De León may have performed in Sacramento. But we are enthusiastically endorsing him now.
De León’s particular strength is envisioning ambitious solutions to major problems, then building alliances and using his political savvy to get them adopted. As leader of the state Senate for four years, he wrote several important pieces of legislation, and helped turn them (and others) into law. Among them were landmark laws mandating an aggressive switch to renewable energy. That was a tough political battle that might well have been lost by a less capable lawmaker.
De León also has an impressive grasp of details, including the workings of local government, and he has specific and achievable goals for the city and the district. We’d like to see him apply those considerable skills to negotiating the more parochial issues of CD 14, including fighting the NIMBYism that has made it difficult to build more housing, homeless shelters and bus lines. If elected, it will be his job to see that district neighborhoods are getting their share of city services, making sure that streets are paved and clean, and balancing the sometimes-competing interests of businesses and residents and developers. We hope he will do that.
The main criticism from his opponents is that De León is a “professional politician” whose many years of service at a high level of government prove that he is interested in this job only as a perch to run for mayor in 2022. But in what other business does having a long resume or relevant experience count as a negative? Such a statement presumes that someone who has never held public office is a better candidate than someone who has. We don’t agree.
Some bitterness still lingers in this district from the short tenure of Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, who swooped into office in 2003 by unseating an incumbent councilman only to turn around and run successfully for mayor in 2005. That’s certainly a possibility with De León, just as it is possible any other member of the City Council might decide to run for mayor or take another job. But that’s speculation, and not a good reason for rejecting a highly qualified candidate.
We recommend Kevin de León for the Los Angeles City Council in the March 3 primary. He has a record of getting big things done. And Los Angeles needs to get some big things done.