Six candidates are running for Los Angeles’ 3rd Council District seat; five showed up to a forum last Tuesday hosted by the Woodland Hills Property Owners Assn. They shook hands, embraced, in a couple cases offered each other pecks on the cheek. Who was missing?
Don’t worry about it, candidate Cary Iaccino told the group. “I think we’ve got the best ones here tonight.”
Candidate Joyce Pearson seemed to agree. “All of the candidates that are running with the exception of that one have jobs,” she said. What one? Who could she mean?
“We have to stop the people that keep moving office to office,” candidate Scott Silverstein said. “Why do they come here? Because there’s nothing left to screw up in Sacramento.”
Candidate Steven Presberg agreed. “These are accomplished people,” he said, referring to his four collegial rivals in the room. “They are clearly pillars of our community and I salute them.”
“The candidate I don’t salute is Bob Blumenfield.”
Oh, him. The assemblyman. The politician. The entrenched guy. The player. The guy who’s not here.
“We may just as well have said to AFSCME and SEIU… ‘Well, he’s yours,’ ” Presberg continued. “And he is theirs. He resides in their pocket, politically.”
Presberg went on to assert that Blumenfield, in the Assembly, introduced bills that were harmful to Los Angeles. He carried a bill “to compel the city to divide certain governing boards between management and union reps,” Presberg said. “I guess he believes unions don’t have enough.”
Gordon Murley, the association leader, stepped in just to make it clear: “Mr. Blumenfield was invited as was everyone else. He’s the only one who didn’t respond and say he wouldn’t be here.”
After the forum, candidates talked with association members one-on-one about Blumenfield’s other evil deeds. He killed community redevelopment, leaving the Reseda business district with empty storefronts and homeless businesses. He destroyed the state budget. He’s trying to buy the election.
Some piece of work, this Bob Blumenfield. Who is he, anyway?
He’s an assemblyman; chairman of the budget committee. He’s from (eww) Brooklyn, and then (ick) Queens. He studied in Africa, then worked with a children’s organization, interned at (ah, ha!) National Public Radio, worked for (it figures) a filmmaker. And then he moved to Washington, D.C., and there you have it. He was officially one of them.
He worked for U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, then Rep. Howard Berman. Became legislative director and then went with Berman when he moved to the budget committee. Then, after the Northridge quake, he became Berman’s point person for assistance and got $14 billion in aid, working, he says now, with homeowner groups, business leaders, hospitals and the Federal Emergency Management Assn. to make sure the San Fernando Valley, and the rest of Southern California with it, didn’t become a ghost town. He wrote a TV show (as those transplants from New York always seem to do). He became a San Fernando Valley coordinator for the Clinton campaign. He negotiated on the other side of the table from Joe Edminston, who later offered him a job with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, living in an 1865 stone house in Solstice Canyon and working on park and water bonds out of Barbra Streisand’s former house-turned-conservancy office.
Then he went back to school, and then he became Berman’s district chief of staff, got married, moved to Woodland Hills, became chairman of the Valley Anti-Defamation League board, did stand-up comedy -- and ran for the Assembly.
What does he know about being on a city council?
The five candidates vying against Blumenfield really ought to come to terms with this: He knows a lot. He has demonstrated that he can break through the silos that otherwise keep government money -- the people’s money -- locked up. He’s worked his way down from Congress to one of those odd California special government agencies (the conservancy) and into the Legislature. He knows who to call. He knows how to get make stuff happen. Is it necessarily the stuff voters want to happen? Well, that's a different question.
The knock about him having screwed up California’s budget? Please. He arrived as Assembly budget chairman at just the time the bottom had dropped out of the economy, and he was immediately tasked with holding the place together -- balancing the books without harming too many people or doing too much permanent damage to infrastructure, parks, public safety. The budget was already a mess, made so at least as often by voters as by lawmakers, with ballot-box-imposed gimmicks and give-backs, like swiping the sales tax on gasoline (no, not the “gas tax” that was never supposed to be used for anything other than transportation, and never was) from the general fund, thereby increasing the deficit. The Legislature surely did its part in screwing up the budget, but it was a work in progress over decades, and it didn’t do it alone. Blumenfield helped put things back together.