Jewish Journal


May 13, 2009

Candidates Tell Why They Deserve Your Vote


Just a few more days of mailboxes stuffed with political fliers and shocking charges of misdeeds leveled by opposing candidates and it will be Tuesday, May 19 — Election Day.

The two races are between Paul Koretz and David T. Vahedi for the 5th District City Council seat, and Jack Weiss and Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich for Los Angeles city attorney. To clarify their positions, The Journal invited the four candidates to respond to six simple questions.

Respondents are listed in alphabetical order, and their replies have been shortened due to space considerations.

Los Angeles City Council, 5th District
Jewish Journal: If elected, what will be your top priorities?

Paul Koretz

Paul Koretz: My first priority will be to address the current budget and finance mess in Los Angeles. The city needs to go through programs one by one and eliminate waste and duplication and determine where cuts can be made that will have the least impact on services. Secondly, I would work to improve constituent services and accessibility in the 5th District. Third, we need a comprehensive regional traffic management program that addresses how the city’s thoughtless land-use patterns contribute to unsustainable traffic. We can create a rapid transit system that reaches all parts of Los Angeles County. I would focus on having the subway and the Expo Line reach through the Westside to the ocean by the time my 12 years on the council are complete.

David Vahedi

David Vahedi: One is public safety. I will fight to keep us all safer by securing our fair share of police officers, funds to buy updated equipment for our police officers and firefighters, and funds for new fire stations. I will also provide additional officers to patrol near our houses of worship during the Sabbath. Secondly, improving infrastructure, from sidewalks that are safe to building public parking to fostering a strong small-business environment and adding fire stations. Thirdly, give every resident a voice and make sure we get our fair share of city services. Assure that taxpayer money is not wasted or squandered.

JJ: Cite three issues, or approaches to issues, in which you and your opponent differ sharply.

Koretz: A major contrast to my opponent is that I have experience as an elected leader and as an aide to several council members. This will enable me to utilize relationships with other elected officials on all levels. I also have the broadest base of supporters, which will enable me to bring everyone to the table to solve problems together. Rather than merely complaining about the problem of illegal billboards, I took a fresh approach by mobilizing volunteers to create an actual inventory of billboards.

Vahedi: I will require developers and residents to meet at the onset of projects to obtain better results. I will use the power of my office to raise funds and acquire additional land for religious institutions. As a lifelong resident of Los Angeles, a 35-year resident of the district, along with a decade of homeowners association and neighborhood council experience, I can get the district moving again on day one.

JJ: Name three of your most important supporters — individuals or organizations.

Koretz: Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Congressman Henry Waxman and Assemblyman Mike Feuer.

Vahedi: Hundreds of community leaders with strong ties to the Jewish community, Los Angeles Times, Daily News.

JJ: Cite any involvement in the Jewish community.

Koretz: I had my bar mitzvah at Anshe Emes Synagogue and grew up in the Pico-Robertson area. I am the son of a Holocaust survivor and wrote legislation that provided Holocaust-genocide curricula and teacher training. I wrote a law requiring the state pension system to divest from companies doing business in Sudan to help end the Darfur genocide. In West Hollywood, I led the fight to save the Maimonides Academy and wrote a law to ban discrimination against Orthodox Jews in the workplace.

Vahedi: I strongly believe that my community work over the last decades has made all of us safer and our quality of life a little better, regardless of faith. I have always been committed to the Jewish community, whether through taking young adults to learn the horrors of the Holocaust at the Museum of Tolerance or being part of a flag-raising ceremony at the Israeli Consulate this past summer.

JJ: How much money have you raised for the campaign and who are your three largest financial supporters?

Koretz: I have raised $130,000, plus matching funds. Among those individuals who have given the $500 maximum are high school and college classmates Alan Viterbi, Richard Leib and Allen King.

Vahedi: I have raised $145,000 in the general election. I am entitled to $125,000 in matching funds, so I am very close to the $275,000 limit in the race. Due to the individual contribution limit being $500, I am unable to list the three largest supporters.

JJ: What is the one factor that qualifies you for the office you are seeking?

Koretz: I am the only candidate in this election that has the depth of knowledge on the issues, the ability to solve problems within the context of an elected body and the relationships to bring opposing sides together to find common ground.

Vahedi: Experience in our district for over 35 years that has resulted in making sure that our residents have a voice in their city and future.

Los Angeles City Attorney
JJ: Your top priorities?

Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich

Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich: Create strike forces against our two major threats — gangs and environmental polluters. As the only candidate who has successfully prosecuted hard-core gang members, murderers, rapists and toxic polluters, I also know that we must provide alternatives to gangs for our children, like after-school job training and apprenticeship programs. Secondly, I will recommit the office of the city attorney to legal excellence. The work of 600 city attorneys has been politicized and their ranks are demoralized. Thirdly, we will operate the office like a business, on a budget, without spending $40 million each year on outside counsel and another $40 million to settle lawsuits.


Jack Weiss

Jack Weiss: Protecting the public. As a federal prosecutor and chair of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, I fought to keep our streets safe. I will use gang injunctions and partnerships with local and federal law enforcement agencies, help give kids alternatives to gangs and fight to keep illegal guns off the streets. I will also fight polluters who threaten community health and quality of life.

JJ: Cite issues in which you differ from your opponent.

Trutanich: My work has earned me a spotless ethical record, and I will enforce our ethical law so that we can rid City Hall of the pay-to-play forces that now operate openly. I will demand statewide gun and ammunition controls that truly work. My opponent has not pressed for solutions that give teeth to our city’s gun control laws. I will be on the job, each and every day. We need a full-time city attorney, and with me that’s what you will get.
Weiss: I have written strong new local gun laws. My opponent is endorsed by the National Rifle Association. I have won the Environmentalist of the Year Award from the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters, while my opponent has built a client list [of polluters] that could lead to conflicts of interest.


JJ: Most important supporters?

Trutanich: Former Controller Laura Chick, District Attorney Steve Cooley, Sheriff Lee Baca, Los Angeles Times and Daily News.

Weiss: Congressman Henry Waxman, Police Chief Bill Bratton and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.


JJ: Involvement in Jewish community?

Trutanich: My grass-roots volunteer leadership from homeowners groups in City Council districts 2, 4, 5 and 11 is largely Jewish. My kitchen cabinet of campaign advisers, including Bob Hertzberg and Jane Usher, is Jewish. My immigrant Croatian and Italian parents thought they were Jewish. Like any civilized thinker, I am firmly committed to the State of Israel.

Weiss: As one of the few remaining Jewish elected officials in city government, I am proud to represent the Jewish community in civic affairs. I have worked with Jewish institutions and organizations to ensure security. I brought Israeli airport security officials to LAX in a first-ever international collaboration. I travel to Israel regularly and am a member of Stephen S. Wise Temple.


JJ: How much campaign money have you raised?

Trutanich: I am the only candidate who signed the city ethics reform pledge agreeing to fundraising limits. We have so far raised $1.3 million in small contributions. My largest contributions have come from Sheriff Baca, D.A. Cooley and law enforcement organizations.

Weiss: My campaign has raised approximately $2.5 million in individual donations, all of $1,000 or less.

JJ: What qualifies you for the office you are seeking?

Trutanich: I alone in this race combine independence from the City Hall political machinery with a deep commitment to the law that arises out of prosecuting and defending serious cases in our courtrooms for 31 years.

Weiss: My experience best qualifies me, as a federal prosecutor, chair of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, working with Chief Bratton and our police and firefighters to keep us safe and protect us from crime, gangs and terrorism. Also, I never switched sides — I’ve always worked on the side of the people.

You Don’t Have to Be Jewish ...
Though not every event at home and abroad necessarily has a Jewish angle, it was almost inevitable that the upcoming elections of a City Council member for the 5th District and of a city attorney would touch Jewish interests and sensitivities, as Rob Eshman noted in his May 8 editorial (“Outsiders Again?”).

For one, the 5th district can be considered the epicenter of Jewish Los Angeles, encircling the city of Beverly Hills and stretching from the Hollywood Hills to both sides of the Santa Monica Mountains, and including Westwood, Century City, Palms, Valley Village and Beverly-Fairfax.

As such, the district has a continuous record of Jewish incumbency since 1953, when 22-year-old Rosalind Wiener (later Wyman) broke a 50-year drought of Jewish representation on the City Council.

She set the pace for other young Jewish upstarts to claim the seat, from Ed Edelman and Zev Yaroslavsky to Mike Feuer and present incumbent Jack Weiss.

So it was no great surprise that in the March primary, five of six hopefuls were Jewish. The exception was David T. Vahedi, who edged out Paul Koretz by 64 votes for first place, with both qualifying for the May 19 runoff.

As the race entered the home stretch in the last couple of weeks, The Journal received a number of phone calls and e-mails to the effect that Vahedi, the son of an Iranian immigrant father, was hiding a Muslim upbringing.

Leaving aside that there are no religious qualifications, or disqualifications, for public office, The Journal asked Vahedi for his comments. He said he was reluctant to bring religion into political discussions, but cited the following family genealogy:

His Iranian grandfather was Muslim, but the son, Vahedi’s father, was nonreligious, immigrated to the United States in 1943, married a Christian woman and had a long and fruitful career as a rocket scientist. (Readers will recognize some resemblance to the background of President Obama.)

The parents raised David in a nonreligious atmosphere, but when he married his wife, Karli, a Catholic, he adopted her faith and was baptized 10 years ago. The Vahedis, including a young son, are members of St. Timothy’s Church.

A second point raised by callers was that if Koretz were defeated, it would end the Jewish presence on the City Council, which stood as high as six out of 15 members in 1986.

An argument can be made, and was made well in Eshman’s editorial, that having Jewish ideals and sensibilities at work in the City Council is good not only for the Jewish community, but for the city as a whole.

But it should also be pointed out that the council has one additional Jewish member, besides the departing Weiss — Councilwoman Jan Perry, a dedicated member of the tribe since her conversion a quarter of a century ago. –TT


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