It was a full house at Monday’s night Council District 13 Candidate Forum in Silver Lake, with all of the dozen candidates showing up to present their views in 60-second bursts to a packed audience of residents and political supporters. The approximately two-hour long forum, sponsored by the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, at Holy Virgin Mary Cathedral covered a wide range of topics, from economic development and public safety to the candidates’ favorite Silver Lake businesses (Alegria, Dusty’s and El Siete Mares all got shout outs). The tone was polite and civil for the most part. But when asked what set them apart, some of the candidates, did take indirect swipes at rivals who have recently moved into the district and have captured the support of major unions and business groups.
“I did not parachute in last year to run for this office,” said state senate aide and Atwater Village resident Robert Negrete. “Special interests didn’t tap me on the shoulder and say ‘It’s your turn to run. Move into this district.’ I’m doing it because I love these communities.”
Former Echo Park neighborhood council president Jose Sigala also touted his local roots as one of his stand-out qualities. “I did not have to move into this district to run,” said former Echo Park. “You do have special interested running in this race.”
What set the other council candidates apart? Here are some of their responses:
John Choi, former Board of Public Works Commissioner & union organizer
“It’s important that you have someone who understands how to build coalitions. It’s not about business versus labor. It’s about how do you bring people together around a shared common interest to make this city a world class destination and a world class home. That’s the type of experience I bring to the table.”
Alexander Cruz De Ocampo, Senior Director of Saban Family Foundation
Ocampo said that growing up in the district as well as his experience working in the private sector, entertainment industry and philanthropy sets him apart. “I think my values my vision and my life and work experiences makes me different and I bring a different perspective to Los Angeles City Hall.
Roberto Haraldson, Business owner and former member of Silver Lake Neighborhood Council
“What I think i bring to the community and this position is a real connection with my neighborhood.”
Sam Kbushyan, East Hollywood Neighborhood Council Board member
“I believe I’m a natural fit because I grew up here. I’m your neighbor. I’m part of your life.”
Emile Mack, LAFD Assistant Fire Chief
I want to bring all my decades of experience in getting the job done at City Hall as a department head, leading the city in times of crises, being a manager, being a person that has been fiscally responsible and bring all that to our district.”
Mitch O’Farrell, Former Senior Advisor to Councilman Eric Garcetti
Cited his involvement working with several Silver Lake projects in the Sunset Junction area and at the Silver Lake reservoirs. “You need someone who understand every aspect of the future of the reservoir … I want to put my experiences to better use on your behalf as your council member. There’s a lot at stake.”
Octavio Pescador, University Professor
“I haven’t been paid to found schools or to serve on boards or to do all the things i do … I spent countless hours of my time offering commentary and giving voice and translating policy to those who don’t have voice or may not understand policy.”
Josh Post, State Deputy Attorney General
Described how he worked as a florist in a cemetery and as a parking valet before putting himself through law school and working with federal and state agencies. “I came to this campaign with not a bunch of special interest friends or lobbyists .I came with an idealist vision that we can do that what I was able to do when I came” to Los Angeles.
Michael Schaefer, Small business owner
“I have entrée into a lot of people in entertainment that I can bring to help us, and we can help them to get the city and the state to do the best to keep the industry here.”
Matt Szabo, Former Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Villaraigosa
“I have probably more experience at the highest levels of city government than probably everybody at this table combined, and I want to put that to work for you.”
The Eastsider will publish future posts on how the Council District 13 candidates stand on different topics and issues raised at the forum.
Want to hear more from the candidates? The Atwater Village Chamber of Commerce is hosting a Council District 13 candidate forum on Wednesday, Jan.30.