Tonight the race for the City Council seat in District 2 took a Jewish turn as the candidates converged on theAdat Ari El Synagogue in North Hollywood. David Saltsburg (Zuma Dogg) was seen greeting people near the entrance and was heard to remark - somewhat sarcastically - towards another candidates entourage, that "It is so nice to see the true community members ! Not just people who are only showing up for an election."
One of the first things that was really very noticeable was the fact that all the candidates had their new fliers near the door. And it seems like everyone has stepped up their game. There were multi-color and multi-page fliers from some of the candidates. Some of the others were still more in the developmental stage. Take a look at the above photo. We are getting down to the end of the campaign -- and you can tell who wants to win.
The forum was moderated by Jeff Kaplan, who I must say, wasn't too good. He mispronounced some of the candidates names. Five minutes of phone calls could have prevented that. He also let a few questions from the crowd degenerate into mini-speeches and political diatribes. He only really cut off one guy, and that was Stuart Miller, who was turning out to be one of the most interesting parts of the evening. (More on this later..)
Mary Benson started the evening off talking about her role in helping with the fire situation in her community. She was upset that the Mayor had not yet activated the Animal Rescue Team (DART) during the Station Fire. She ended by saying that "I want to be a champion for these issues!"
Augusto Bisani is a nice guy who said that "I have no political background", and it showed tonight.
He went into a complicated rant about the 110 volt electricity we have here as compared to the 220 they have in Europe. He also talked about building houses with aluminum frames. I wasn't sure what either thing had to do with City Council...but....hey... it's his microphone for 5 minutes ...let him speak.
Joe Essavi was one of the courageous candidates who actually had the guts to criticize Wendy Gruel for skipping from job to job and leaving CD 2 without a Council Member for months. He talked about the slick, glossy fliers that keep showing up in voters mailboxes. He asked voters to ask themselves "Who paid for this?" He pointed the finger at special interest money flowing to the top candidates.
Chris Essel started by saying she lived in the Valley, and I couldn't help but notice that Mary Benson kind of smirked in questioning disbelief. But Chris Essel was very, very good tonight. Her presentation was very smooth, and she was very charming, and she showed some more humanity and compassion than she had at previous forums. It seemed like she had rehearsed or practiced a bit. If Essel performs this well in her TV commercials, it will have a devastating effect on the other candidates.
Essel talked about starting the Cahuenga Pass Homeowners Association. She added the point that "someone with my background can add value to the City Council." Essel also talked briefly about some of the other candidates "planning and plotting" in their political careers - which was clearly a backhanded slap at Paul and Tamar, without being too mean or too obvious. Essel also surprised with a few other moves tonight....we'll get to that later.
Tamar Galatzan was impressive as usual. Tamar has a natural self-confidence and leadership style that she effortlessly conveys to the audience. I know a few other bloggers have criticized her voice and delivery style, but nonetheless, the end result is always the same....you get the feeling that "She's the boss!" Tamar talked about how proud she was for standing up to Villaraigosa and earning scorn from the SEIU. She also talked about how this could be a 14 year job for the person who gets elected. She also discussed her legal background and work as a prosecutor.
Paul Krekorian was the only one who mentioned the synagogue by name. Smooth move by the career politician. Paul talked about the failures of City Government. His pointed out his wife, Tamar, who was seated in the audience, and gave her praise. He talked about his rise to power, and of his success on the Burbank School Board. Krekorian said "L.A. needs representatives who listen." Paul also talked about his "Government at your doorstep" program where he and his staff had reached out to over 3000 voters in the Valley and simply asked how they could help improve their voters lives.
Michael McCue was again, the most powerful, and most dramatic speaker of the evening. He told a story about watching from a distance as the raging fires of the Station Fire destroyed areas in CD 2. He said he started to cry as he watched the homes of his neighbors go up in flames. "This race is LIFE or DEATH!," he shouted. McCue went on to talk about the Rent stabilization ordinances and the Condo conversion issues CD 2 has faced in the past. There were a lot of heads in the crowd nodding in agreement. "Our seniors have had heart attacks from the stress of being evicted from their homes!" he said, forcefully. He also discussed traffic safety and crosswalk issues.
McCue launched into an angry tirade... "Do we have to bleed in the streets? Do we have to watch our homes burn? Do we have to die? This Mayor is corrupt! This City Council is corrupt!"
I thought maybe McCue was a bit overly dramatic, but it was powerful stuff. You could hear a pin drop.
McCue finished by saying that the Green Party had 10 key values they follow. He also warned the voters that this election..."is not for a 14 year term!".
David Saltsburg (Zuma Dogg) was spotted sharing a laugh with Chris Essel during the introductions. (I'll have to ask him later what they were talking about.) David mentioned his usual campaign mantra of the fact that he has been attending City Council meetings for 3 years. He revealed a funny moment from Tusedays City Council meeting, where Richard Alarcon had protested in chambers that "I don't want Zuma Dogg dictating policy in Los Angeles!" David found this to be a hilarious, and subtle admission by Alarcon that his advocacy work is having an effect. Saltsburg commented.."That's right everyone... Zuma Dogg is not endorsed by Richard Alarcon!". It was one of the funnier moments of the evening and got the crowd roaring in laughter. Saltsburg also talked about how he felt he has created change "from the public comment podium at City Hall."
Pete Sanchez mentioned how he had been the first President of the Neighborhood Council Valley Village and how he was currently the President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He said he didn't like the direction the City was headed. "I see us going towards bankruptcy. There have to be changes in how we do our budgeting," he explained.
Frank Sheftel talked about how he had been first in everything. First to file. First to get his signs out. First, first first... he went down the line. He mentioned how he had attended Hebrew High School at this Temple and reminded voters that the election was during Jewish Holidays. He added that "We need to make sure this seat stays in the community. We have some great grassroots candidates and I think that I am one of the best of them."
The question and answer session degenerated into tirades at points, but was colorful, nonetheless.
A few surprises....
Augusto Bisani said he didn't know who Ed Begley Jr. was. Wow. Begley has been Enviro/Eco activist #1 in this City for along time. I don't agree with Begley at all, but I certainly know who he is.
Krekorian made a good wisecrack about McCue's tendency to go over stated time limits. "With Michael, you have to wrestle the microphone away from him."
Zuma Dogg laid into Mayor Villaraigosa over the fires.. "The Mayor has the nerve to budget cut the firefighters...HOW DARE HE!! ", he shouted.
A political activist named Mark Herd tore into some of the candidates and went into a lengthy rant about the cost of fliers. He held up one of Chris Essels multiple-page glossy color fliers as an example. Then he also pointed out how the other candidates fliers were much cheaper and how they had a " door-to-door quality" about them. Pete Sanchez replied to the situation with humor... "I'm the guy who is going door to door", he laughed, holding up his inexpensive flier. Bisani got a good laugh when he held up his flier and said "Don't forget about the good-looking guy!"
David Saltsburg got in one of the best comments of the night , when after Bisani was talking about nuclear power, he grabbed the mike and said "The City can't pay it's firefighters...I don't want to hear talk about nuclear power!" Just after him, Essel stunned him and the crowd by saying "I'm with Zuma Dogg!" on the nuclear power issue... It was a true Twilight Zone moment. Neither candidate had ever predicted they would say that about each other.
An activist named Stuart Miller stood up and really started ripping into Chris Essel. He talked about her carpetbagging, and even called out her street address in CD 5. He started dressing her down about SB 1818...but was cut off by the moderator because his comments ran several minutes before getting to a question.
I talked to Essel about this afterwards. I had been very hard on her on this blog about this issue, but she made an excellent point...that her house in the hills is only one mile from the border of CD 2. I admitted that she was right and it probably should not be such a big issue, but I also told her people get emotional about it. Essel invited me to have coffee with her. My jaw just about hit the floor. She surprised me with that, I'll admit.
I also talked with Tamar after the forum. Tamar made it clear to me how much she wants to win.
She promised not to run for any other offices if she wins. I have to admit, I did like that comment.
A good forum...no clear winner. Krekorian still the biggest threat in this race, though.