June 24, 2024 #1 Local News, Forum, Information and Event Source for Venice Beach, California.

Column: Sparks Fly at South Brentwood Residents Association Council Forum

In one of the more animated and interesting forums in the race to succeed retiring Councilman Mike Bonin, the gloves came off Thursday (10/20) evening during a council forum sponsored by the South Brentwood Residents Association that was viewed by roughly 100 hundred or so members. 

The civic organization hosted its general meeting with a full program that included a presentation by California Senator Ben Allen of Santa Monica and a candidate presentation from Senator Robert Hertzberg and West Hollywood Council member Lindsey Horvath, both competing for the open seat being vacated by the retiring Sheila Kuehl for the position of LA County Supervisor. 

Allen, who is also seeking reelection to a third and final term spoke about his legislative goals and objectives for the district which includes Brentwood as well as Venice Beach. 

According to his official state biography, California State Senator Ben Allen was elected in 2014 (and reelected in 2018) to represent the 26th Senate District covering the Westside, Hollywood, and coastal South Bay communities of Los Angeles County.

Allen chairs the Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee and co-chairs the Legislature’s Environmental Caucus, is a member of the Legislative Jewish Caucus, chairs the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Arts, and the Senate Select Committee on Aerospace and Defense. He previously served as Chair of the Education Committee (2017-2019) and Chair of the Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee (2015-2016).

Among his efforts to reform California campaign finance and elections laws, Ben authored the landmark Voter’s Choice Act of 2016 to implement more flexibility in how and where to vote, creating the vote center model used in the 2020 elections which resulted in significantly increased voter turnout. Ben also has been a leader for campaign transparency, and was a leader in passing the Disclose Act and Petition Disclose Act which has dramatically improved disclosure of donors to political causes for the public. The California Clean Money Campaign has routinely ranked him top in the Legislature for his commitment to clean money political reform.

An advocate for the Golden State’s continued leadership in arts and entertainment, Ben is a member of the California Film Commission. He authored the law that reinstated teaching credentials for theatre and dance educators, and he continues to fight for expanded access to the arts in schools and underserved communities. He has been a champion for science, and was joint author of the state’s groundbreaking law that increased vaccination rates amongst school children.

Ben grew up in the 26th Senate District and attended public schools, graduating from Santa Monica High School in 1996. His father, Michael, spent his career on the English Department faculty at UCLA and mother, Elena, was a public school teacher and artist, and served as Chair of the Santa Monica Arts Commission. Ben has a Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude in History from Harvard University; a Master’s degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Cambridge; and a Juris Doctor degree from UC Berkeley. Fluent in Spanish, Ben is a Senior Fellow with the international human rights organization Humanity in Action, an Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellow, a Truman National Security Project Fellow, and a graduate of the Jewish Federation’s New Leaders Project. He and his wife Melanie, an attorney, have a little son, Ezra.

Lindsey Horvath, a West Hollywood councilmember and candidate for LA County Supervisor addressed the audience stressing her body of service at the local level and pledged that elected officials need to make government better than they found it. A renter, Horvath spoke of her record enacting an affordable housing policy requiring at least 20% of all new housing units for working families and economically disadvantaged individuals. Endorsed by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, Horvath supports the ballot initiative that could remove the sitting sheriff by the LA County Board of Supervisors. Horvath accused Sheriff Alex Villanueva of “creating problems versus solving them,” and said she would support a charter change that would make the elected position of Sheriff appointed. 

Stating that “public service was in his DNA,” California Senator Robert “Bob” Hertzberg, the first place finisher in the June Primary described himself as a native Angeleno, lawyer, entrepreneur, businessman and community activist. The former 2005 LA mayoral candidate and Speaker of the California General Assembly, Hertzberg described himself as a renewable energy expert and someone who has a record of combating climate change. 

Calling himself a “nuts and bolts” public advocate, Senator Hertzberg emphasized his 14-years of elective public service as a track record of “how to get things done.” 

Hertzberg talked about the details of county government and how in his career he has worked with 31 members of Congress and that he has secured the endorsement of California Governor Gavin Newsom as well as the entire law enforcement and public safety community in his bid for supervisor. 

“Amateurs are making noise,” and Hertzberg emphasized his understanding of county government with its 51 departments and stressed collaboration at the core of his problem-solving skill set. 

“The county is a partner of the state. Long Beach itself is larger than the city of Boston. There are 88 cities in LA County and I helped deliver the largest crime lab in the United States. We need to fill those 684 vacant slots in the Sheriff’s Department and I will solve and deliver for the residents of LA County because getting things done is what matters,” offered the Democratic Senate leader in Sacramento. 

But the real fireworks set ablaze when CD-11 council candidates Erin Darling and Traci Park took center stage. 

Lawyers who reside in Venice. Both are first-time candidates for city council. Park, the right-of-center populist and Darling, the progressive Democrat and tenant advocate began to spar on the issue of homelessness and public safety. 

Park, is an employment attorney that exclusively advises and assists employers and management in labor and employment law and civil rights litigation according to her firm’s website.

Park stressed her opposition to the median project in Venice that is currently before the California Coastal Commission and stated the incumbent was promoting his personal ideology versus the will of the public. She described Darling as the “hand-picked” candidate of the incumbent, yet Bonin has no role on the Darling campaign. 

Park stressed her law and order credentials and support from police officers, sheriff’s officers, firefighters and lifeguards as well as the support of former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LA City Controller Ron Galperin. 

“I don’t play in the sandbox with those who want to defund the police”. 

Describing herself as a moderate, Park called herself a “pragmatic problem-solver.” 

Darling, the life-long Venice resident and former VNC member is a married with a three-year old son and stressed his “born and bred” status as a Venetian. 

A product of public schools, Darling is a surfer and played Little League Baseball here in Dogtown. 

Darling also attended law school with California Senators Ben Allen and Henry Stern.

The candidate spoke about creating “a pipeline to get people inside,” noting that five people a day are dying on the streets of Los Angeles due to homelessness. 

Darling stressed “there is a crisis in leadership. The question now is what are we going to do about it?” 

The tenant advocate called for collaboration between local, county, state and federal levels and noted the endorsements he received from LA Supervisors Hilda Solis, Sheila Kuehl and Holly Mitchell in having the ability to “create consensus and build coalitions if we are to solve the street encampment crisis.” 

Darling who in the past has described Park as a former Republican and the most conservative candidate on the ballot for council, noted that not a single Democratic Club has endorsed her candidacy. 

Darling views himself as the real Democrat in what is officially regarded as a non-partisan office. 

“We need to get back to people. We need effective and reliable constituent services,” offered the candidate. 

Both candidates conceded that permanent construction of housing is months, if not years away. Both candidates stressed short-term solutions to get individuals off the streets and inside. And both called for emergency action should they succeed Bonin. 

Park stressed the need to stabilize and bring sobriety to the homeless community, while strictly enforcing and expanding on 41.18. 

Darling also spoke to tiny homes and hotel conversion as solutions and pointed out that Park opposed the Ramada Inn conversion in Venice which is in the proximity of Park’s personal residence. 

Darling took exception to Park’s claim of widespread union support and bluntly stated, “I am the candidate of labor and unions.” 

“80% of those on the streets want a room with a door. I have a real plan and the experience.” 

Park accused Darling of supporting a defunding of the LAPD and that support resulted in the loss of resources to combat crime as well as the encampments. 

“People don’t feel safe on the Westside. Public Safety will have a seat at the table when I’m elected,” pronounced Park.

The wheels began to come off the discussion when the topic of racist comments uttered by former LA Council President Nury Martinez, Councilman Kevin de Leon and outgoing Councilman Gil Cedillo went public last week due to a leaked recording that has since gone viral on Social Media and brought national coverage to this taped conversation. 

Behind closed doors, former Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez made openly racist remarks, derided some of her council colleagues and spoke in unusually crass terms about how the city should be carved up politically. She was joined in these highly offensive dialogue by her colleagues de Leon and Cedillo according to the Los Angeles Times.  

“Nury Martinez endorsed my opponent (Park). Gil Cedillo endorsed my opponent. I will stand up to these bigoted statements,” said Darling. 

Park said she was “mortified and disgusted” by the comments of the three council members and has since retracted the endorsements by Martinez and Cedillo to her campaign. 

“I condemned it.” 

Park then accused Darling of seeking their support as well and said she would consider charter reform proposals such as expanding the size of the LA City Council from 15 to 30 members. Darling also voiced support for the same proposal and cited New York City as a city council with some fifty members with twice the population. 

Park also became defensive when a $300,000 donation secured by an independent expenditures committee favoring her candidacy became the topic of conversation.

According to KNOCK LA,  Douglas Emmett Inc., a real estate investment trust (REIT) that owns and operates 4,500 apartments in the West Los Angeles area, has contributed over $300,000 to an independent expenditure fund operated by the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) to support candidate Park. 

The corporation’s financial support of Park’s campaign might be an attempt to circumvent installing lifesaving fire safety measures at one of their Sawtelle apartment complexes, Barrington Plaza. 

Two fires have broken out at the complex within a nine-year span, leaving one resident dead and several others hospitalized. Barrington Plaza, built in 1962, does not have sprinklers due to a gap in Los Angeles’ fire safety codes that doesn’t require high-rises built between 1943 and 1974 to have sprinklers installed.

In addition to the $300,000 Douglas Emmett has contributed to the LAPPL’s independent expenditure fund supporting Park, employees of the company have directly contributed another $10,500 in total to Park’s campaign. 

Douglas Emmett’s spending outpaces LAPPL itself, which has contributed $172,000 in their support of Park.

Park responded by stating her campaign has “thousands of donors, more than anyone except Karen Bass. It reflects I have support from all walks of life.” 

Park declared that she was the “fire safety candidate,” and accused Darling of “malicious lies and sleazy tactics, a candidate (Darling) not resonating with voters.” 

The discussion then turned to the use of the N-word in litigation against the municipality of Anaheim where Park represented the employee. 

As first reported on by Spectrum 1 News, Park defended the use of the “n-word” in the 2021 case, Harrell v. City of Anaheim. Andrew Harrell worked as a superintendent in Anaheim’s public works department. According to Darling’s campaign, he was the only African-American in management within the department. During his sixteen months with the city, Harrell said he experienced persistent racist abuse and harassment from his supervisor Dan Debassio. 

Darling said his opponent defended the indefensible when she took the case.

“I think that’s just wrong,” Darling said. “To make that argument is just wrong. I don’t think it shows any awareness of the intensity of that word, which is the worst slur in the English language,” Darling said.

Park told Spectrum News 1 she was just doing her job and when asked, did not say she regretted taking the case.

“I do not condone the use of racially offensive slurs or language, however, there are legal standards when it comes to filing a lawsuit and, if you read the brief, you’ll see that I noted this was a very serious allegation,” Park said.

On Thursday evening Park described the accusations against her as “despicable practices, and thinly veiled misogyny.” 

“I do not condone racially motivated behavior.” Park also stated Darling was trying to “put words in my mouth.” 

Park described the Darling campaign as a “disgusting smear campaign” and that Darling represents the same failed policies of the incumbent. 

Park claimed Darling’s whole campaign is being “coordinated with Bonin.” 

Darling called the accusation “silly and nonsense.” 

Darling, who has been endorsed twice by the Los Angeles Times and the LA County Democratic Party said he would populate his staff with people who reside in the district to ensure best practices and promised to respond within 48-hours to constituent inquiries. Park said she would end the “revolving door staff” we have today as she stated she has reached out to former Bonin staffers and will create a “new culture” that includes engagement and feedback from neighborhood councils within CD-11. 

“Your agenda is my agenda,” offered Park. 

Darling stated he wanted to revive a sense of “community and commitment.”

Darling said he will implement private sector technology strategies so that he could offer constituents a marked improvement in experience and service. 

“We need to simplify, we have the resources,” noted Darling. 

Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venetian covering the race for LA City Council in District 11 and how it impacts the neighborhood of Venice. Have a take or tip on the campaign? Contact Antonicello via e-mail at nantoni@mindspring.com

in Opinion
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