Tue, May

Backroom Deals in the Race to Succeed Tom LaBonge


LA WATCHDOG-The race to succeed termed out LA Councilman Tom LaBonge is turning into a circus as fifteen (15) candidates have tossed their hats into the ring. However, only six of these candidates have raised over $100,000, representing almost 90% of the $870,000 raised by all of the candidates. 

Unfortunately, none of these six candidates have the expertise, experience, or willingness to address the City’s Structural Deficit caused by its spiraling labor costs; its $30 billion of unfunded pension liabilities, deferred maintenance of our streets and sidewalks, and existing debt; and the City’s inefficient operations and bloated bureaucracy. Rather, they all are products of our political system, where balancing the budget and fixing our streets and sidewalks requires an increase in our property or sales tax. 

Three of the candidates have experience working in City Hall.  Carolyn Ramsay, the leading fundraiser at $166,000, was the former Chief of Staff to Tom LaBonge.  Joan Pelico is the Chief of Staff to Paul Koretz.  And Teddy Davis served as press secretary for Mayor Villaraigosa. 

David Ryu, a relative unknown and former member of the Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council, is familiar with the City’s political landscape.  Over the years, he has been a successful political fundraiser in the Korean community, as was witnessed by his ability to put together a war chest of $161,000.  

The other two candidates in the top six, Steve Veres ($155,000) and Wally Knox ($102,000), have strong connections to Sacramento and the region’s powerful labor unions. 

Veres is the District Director for Kevin de Leon, the President of the State Senate.  As an elected trustee for the troubled Los Angeles Community College District, he has been able to raise considerable sums from unions and other special interests, including donors associated with the shenanigans at the Central Basin Municipal Water District.   

Knox, a former member of the State Assembly, was a Commissioner of our Department of Water and Power where he opposed the formation of the Ratepayers Advocate.  He was also a major contributor to Yes on Proposition A, the proposed permanent half cent increase in our sales tax that was rejected by 55% of the voters in March of 2013. Contributors to Knox’s campaign also include many city related unions, including IBEW Local 11. 

But some of the power elite that occupy City Hall are not comfortable with the present line up of candidates and are plotting the entry of State Assembly Member Adrin Nazarian into the race. 

Nazarian, the former Chief of Staff for his mentor, Paul Krekorian, has been planning his entre into the race to replace Tom LaBonge ever since he was elected to the Assembly in 2012, despite his comments to the contrary.  At the same time, Nazarian is running for reelection in November to the State Assembly against an underfunded and unknown opponent.  

But this is all part of the scheme as Nazarian will be able to funnel surplus money from his Assembly reelection effort - extracted from the unions, corporations, and special interests who need to curry favor with the State Legislature - to his City Council campaign coffers.  

These donors include the Los Angeles Police Protective League, SEIU 721, and the American Federation of Federal, State, County, and Municipal Employees, all of whom are currently negotiating contracts with our cash strapped City.  

Other donors include the BNSF Railway, Indian casinos, and Union Bo$$ d’Arcy and IBEW 18, the union that represents over 90% of the workers at our Department of Water and Power. 

If Nazarian survives the March primary and is elected to represent Council District 4 in May, this will require yet another special election that will cost us at least $2 million. 


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If Nazarian is reelected to the State Assembly, he should finish his two year term and not run for our City Council.  If he decides to run for the City Council, he should resign from the Assembly and return all excess funds from his Assembly race to his donors and not use this special interest blood money to finance his run for the City Council. And if Nazarian makes it through the March primary and wins the May election, he should reimburse the taxpayers for the cost of the special election to replace him in the State Assembly. 

Furthermore, Councilman Paul Krekorian, Herb Wesson, and their fellow members on the City Council should tell Nazarian in no uncertain terms that they will not support his candidacy for City Council and will condemn his sleazy, unethical use of his State Assembly campaign contributions to fund his run for the City Council. 

But that still leaves us with the issue of how the candidates for Council District 4 propose to eliminate the Structural Deficit caused by spiraling personnel costs, to fund the City’s pension plans that are $10 billion underwater, and to fix our streets, sidewalks, and the rest of our failing infrastructure. 

Stay tuned to see if any of the 15 candidates will have any concrete proposals that pass the smell test. 


 (Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, The Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at:  [email protected]. Hear Jack every Tuesday morning at 6:20 on McIntyre in the Morning, KABC Radio 790.) 






Vol 12 Issue 77

Pub: Sep 23, 2014




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