Ballot Box: Council District 13 candidates seek to stand out among the crowd

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.  

Related Links:


  1. wow szabo isnt a bit modest is he?

  2. Finally someone with grassroots and local to our communities like Robert Negrete is running. Someone with out special interest but that has the experience and knowledge of our district.

    • I met this guy the other day and was impressed on his history with the community, He took the time to talk to me and my partner, and even spoke about the history of surrounding communities.

  3. I attended, and found it to be a civil affair. But I was not satisfied by the questions, which largely seemed to be leading the candidates towards a “correct” answer. For instance, two consecutive questions (paraphrased) were “Who would you work for? The constituency? Or do you have a firm idea of what you should do and accomplish?” and “How do you intend to foster good relations with our city’s main employer, the entertainment industry?”

    For the first question, every candidate touted one version or another of “I am not beholden to special interests, some of my opponents are, follow the money, I will listen to the people and put them first in all decisions.” For the second, every candidate touted how close they were with the entertainment industry, and most talked about extending and expanding tax breaks for that industry.

    I understand that fostering entertainment companies in this district is good for jobs. But I rankled at the obvious conflict of interest; is entertainment not a “special interest”? If not, what is? It’s an industry that will lobby your office to get special consideration in how you vote and isn’t private citizenry! That’s not wrong, but no candidate acknowledged the disparity between being for large companies that do not exclusively employ District 13 residents and acting directly for District 13 residents.

    Mostly, though, it was a problem with the questions, not the candidates. They cannot be seen as anything but pro-business and pro-resident, even if the truth is a nice grey area that each candidate probably has a firm opinion upon. I would have loved to see some candidate say “Look, you guys at the SLNC are great, but neighborhood councils are just another voice; I’ll probably listen to who’s in my office the most. And who donates money and campaigns for me. And to be perfectly honest, I’ll listen to my wife before ANY of you.”

    • The painful truth is that if we actually did “follow the money”, we’d realize that the people these candidates truly want to help the most …are themselves. In case anyone hasn’t been following along, the City Council members get $14,000+/month plus juicy benefits. No wonder they’ll tell you anything you want to hear. No wonder there are so many of them running. Follow the money indeed.

  4. I thought Jose Sigala did an amazing job last night. Very humble. He’s got my vote

  5. Of all the candidates at last night’s forum, there was no one that shined brighter than Mitch O’Farrell. And now he wants to represent you and I, and all I can say is, “Hallelujah!” No one has worked harder for this community than he. No concern is too small to ignore or too large to tackle for Mitch O’Farrell. And each time he spoke (with such grace and heart), I saw my neighbors, I saw the small business owners, I saw struggling families, I saw myself, I saw my entire community. Folks, Mitch O’Farrell is the real deal. I’ve said this once, twice, a thousand times, and I’ll say it again, “We’ve been waiting for you, Mitch.”

    • Mitch may be a “fair guy”, but the ultimate decisions were from Eric G. and even then my part of the community was not well taken care of. Mitch was nothing more than an extension of Eric’s decision and then gets booted out of Garcetti’s.

      • Many will cast their vote for Mitch O’Farrell, but not for Eric Garcetti on March 5th, 2013. Mitch is his own man, with his own vision, and people recognize that.

  6. well mitch is waiting for you at his residence outside the district at 3842 inglis dr. mt washinton,you want to vote for a guy that deceives you go ahead

    • Rueben,
      Mr. O’Farrell’s previous residence, 3842 Inglis Dr was in District 13 before realignment this past year. Then Mr. O’Farrell moved to a new residence in CD13. He lives in CD 13, where ever it is.

    • Rueben, s right! He moved into the district! regardless, if he is true to his roots he should have stayed to run in CD1, Can you say “Carpet Bagger”?

      • Does anyone know who at the Mayors office was in charge of redistricting this last go round? Seems like a lot of funny business happened at the end to make sure some were in and out of the Districts?


      • You may be able to “say carpet bagger”, but you are unable to correctly spell “carpetbagger.”

  7. Josh Post … stand up dude. He stopped by my door and chatted with me for 20 minutes about his (and my) concerns for the neighborhood … mind you, he was going door to door, and I live in a freaking apartment complex!

    Anyway, it says a lot to me that I know what this guy is really about. Post is gonna get my vote!

  8. I tend to agree about the aspects of the “questions” asked.

    they tend to be questions that not the average person wants to ask the candidates, and put the candidates in a peculiar spot.

    In this type of debate, with so many candidates; they sit and listen to the candidates and then rephrase their answers to sound better, not a good debate, or reflective of the candidates.

  9. Sam Kbushyan..I had a meeting with him a couple of years ago to start BID for Hollywood Blvd East Hollywod…and the BID never happened, thought he was head of Armenian Chamber of Commerce?!?!

Post a Comment

Please keep your comments civil and on topic and refrain from personal attacks. The moderator reserves the right to edit or delete any comments. The Eastsider's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy apply to comments submitted by readers. Required fields are marked *