Candidates Talk ‘Highland Park’ at CD 1 Forum

The three official candidates for LA City Council District One, plus one write-in, addressed a moderately packed meeting room at Franklin High last night in a forum presented by the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council (HHPNC), The Arroyo Seco Journal, the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce and the Highland Park Heritage Trust. The four candidates—Former State Senator Gil Cedillo, Council staffer Jose Gardea, and local business owner Jesse Rosas, along with write-in candidate William Morrison Rodriguez—faced a host of questions ranging from the Southwest Museum controversy to public safety to the role of Neighborhood Councils.

Residents listening to CD 1 candidates

The event was moderated by HHPNC President Monica Alcaraz and Robert Keift, Head Librarian at Occidental College

Clearly, candidates Cedillo and Gardea were the best-prepared and most qualified, and Gardea was particularly specific in addressing local issues.

As one journalist noted, Cedillo took a more “global” approach to First District issues, citing similar work he has accomplished while serving Downtown in the State Legislature. Gardea, who is the Chief of Staff for Councilmember Ed Reyes, was able to articulate clear answers to each of the questions posed to the group.

Both Rosas and Morrison-Rodriguez were clearly in over their heads. Rosas was rarely able to articulate a clear answer to any of the questions, owing both to his inexperience and his difficulty with English. Morrison-Rodriguez, for his part showed a rare bravado, and was the only candidate who would proclaim “victory” in March. (Morrison failed to collect enough certified signatures to qualify for the official ballot.) He also mentioned the recent death of his father a number of times during the evening.

Gardea, curiously, pointed out that if elected, he would not “leave the office early,” citing “unfinished business” in the district.

All of the candidates agreed on the issue of the Southwest Museum, saying that it should stay in Highland Park with its full collection. Gardea curiously cited the case of the recently refurnished Griffith Observatory, as a precedent for how to fund the Museum, though the two situations are dramatically different.

CD 1 candidate Gil Cedillo addresses the forum audience.

Each candidate also voiced opposition to the 710 Freeway extension, which would impact local neighborhoods. Also on the subject of local neighborhoods, Gardea once again had the only specific plan for Figueroa Street (Which all of the candidates irritatingly referred to as a “boulevard”), describing a plan which would call for diagonal parking on Figueroa to slow down the local traffic. Gardea also articulated a plan for a new business improvement district for Monte Vista, a secondary street in Highland Park.

On the subject of local schools, Gardea promised to create “parent centers” at each school, while Cedillo sought a more “hands-off” policy, saying if “the candidates were interested in schools, they would run for school board positions.”

Finally, asked what they would do with a million unencumbered dollars in their council accounts, Gardea described seeking matching funds from MTA and other organizations to make the money go further, while Cedillo said he would look for ways to “encourage leadership in youth.”  Morrison said he would train and hire youth to repair sidewalks, while Rosas parroted Gardea’s answer, though not as clearly.

The Arroyo Seco Journal will announce its endorsements in February.