There has been no race as hotly debated this election cycle as the one taking place in Los Angeles’ 14th Council District.
The incumbent Jose Huizar and his challenger businessman Rudy Martinez have spent much of their time flinging mud rather than focusing on issues like city services, budget problems, or public safety.
That’s too bad for voters because both candidates have a lot to offer.
CD-14 may be one district, but it is made up of very diverse communities with their own personalities, issues, challenges and strengths. The district goes from Eagle Rock, Mt. Washington and Highland Park to El Sereno, Boyle Heights and includes a sliver of downtown’s commercial corridor.
While Huizar has had some notable missteps during his 5 years on the council, we believe he has the best grasp of the diverse needs of the district. EGP endorses Huizar.
That’s not to say we don’t like Martinez, we do. We are impressed with his energy and ability to draw people in with his enthusiasm and that he’s willing to voice concerns often only spoken in hushed voices around the district, or on today’s City Council.
Martinez talks about providing equal service to every resident in the district, and working to make the city more business friendly and creating more job opportunities in the 14th District. He thinks if businesses prosper, so will the community.
Martinez says that Huizar has failed to listen to the people in the district or accomplish anything of major importance for the residents of CD-14.
While there’s nothing wrong with pointing out your opponent’s shortcomings, you also have to be able to articulate what you will do for voters in the district.
And that’s where Martinez falls short in our view.
When asked, Martinez was hard pressed to come up with clear examples of projects he would undertake in the district, preferring to talk in broad terms about tackling “quality of life” issues such as policing unlicensed food vendors and people using their driveways as auto repair shops, cutting trees, filling potholes, helping businesses succeed, and getting police out from behind their desks and into patrol cars. How he would pay for it is unclear.
He says that if people want the libraries or parks to stay open longer, they should volunteer their time and that volunteers should be used to take police reports.
We were disappointed that after nearly a year on the campaign trail Martinez had not become better versed on a number of complex issues facing the district and the city, not the least of which is the budget deficit and how he would tackle it.
Well the message that people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps and stop depending on city government to do everything for them has a nice ring, it seems to us that Martinez does not fully grasp that not all people or communities are equal in their ability to achieve this lofty goal. While residents in Mt. Washington and Eagle Rock may be in a better position to raise money to support their local libraries and schools, or find alternatives to publicly financed after-school programs at local parks, the same is not necessarily true for residents of Glassell Park or Boyle Heights.
Huizar, on the other hand, does get it, but perhaps too well. At times his understanding that there are many sides to an issue has caused him to bend to easily on tough issues. He needs to stand firmer.
During the campaign Huizar has been strongly criticized for how he has used Central Los Angeles Recycling and Transfer Community Amenities (CLARTS) funds and for his failure to release to the public details about how the funds have been spent. He should have released the information sooner; he owed that to his constituents,
Members of his staff have at times attended neighborhood council meetings unprepared to answer questions on an issue they knew would be asked, such as the CLART funds. That should change.
However, Huizar’s use of CLARTS funds may demonstrate one of the biggest differences between him and Martinez, who thinks the money should be spent on big ticket items like street improvements and keeping fire stations fully staffed.
Huizar has used the funds for those types of things as well as for police overtime. Some might consider some of the expenditures frivolous, given the city’s financial straits. But if you ask the young people who have attended after-school programs, or cheerleaders who have attended competitions they were unable to pay for themselves, or students learning new skills at the Boyle Heights Technology Center that were paid for in part with CLARTS funds, we think they would disagree.
Many in the district have told us they believe these types of expenditures address quality of life issues in the district. So do we.
Council District 14 has not had a two-term representative since Richard Alatorre. Several improvement projects started by Alatorre and former Councilman Nick Pacheco who followed him for one term, languished under then-councilman Antonio Villaraigosa. Huizar has been able to bring many of them to completion. That is an important accomplishment. While residents in much of the district might feel disconnected from the Bringing Back Broadway initiative or the proposals for a downtown street trolley, they are nonetheless improvements to the district as well as the city.
With the city facing a deficit in the hundreds of millions, employee layoffs and program and service cuts, we believe it is important to have a councilmember in place who is already familiar with the diverse needs of the district and how the process to get local funds works. For that reason, we endorse the reelection of Jose Huizar.