ALARCON BACK ON FAMILIAR GROUND POLITICIAN SEEKS RETURN TO COUNCIL.Byline: TONY CASTRO Staff Writer
In Los Angeles' culture of narcissism narcissism (närsĭs`ĭzəm), Freudian term, drawn from the Greek myth of Narcissus, indicating an exclusive self-absorption. In psychoanalysis, narcissism is considered a normal stage in the development of children. and power, it is perhaps only the practical and the environmentally trendy who aspire to aspire to
verb aim for, desire, pursue, hope for, long for, crave, seek out, wish for, dream about, yearn for, hunger for, hanker after, be eager for, set your heart on, set your sights on, be ambitious for drive a Toyota Prius The Toyota Prius is a hybrid electric vehicle developed and manufactured by the Toyota Motor Corporation, and one of the first such vehicles to be mass-produced and marketed. The Prius first went on sale in Japan in 1997, and worldwide in 2001. .
So when the silver Prius chugged into the Sylmar High School Sylmar High School is a public school in the northeast San Fernando Valley in the Sylmar district of Los Angeles, California. Established in the 1950s, it is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District, District 2, and serves more than 3,600 students in grades 9-12. parking lot on a recent winter day, only the personalized California license plate -- S 20 -- gave any hint of importance.
In a matter of days, Richard Alarcon would be replacing that license plate, reserved for the representative of state Senate District 20, with another personalized plate -- A 39.
Just how long Alarcon holds on to that license plate will be up to the voters of the 7th City Council District, which Alarcon represented from 1993 until 1998 -- and which he now wants back, even as he becomes accustomed to representing the 39th Assembly District.
If there was ever a politician who knows how to play political musical chairs in the era of term limits, it is Alarcon. He is seen as the the biggest immediate beneficiary of Measure R, the voter-approved initiative that allows City Council members to serve a third four-year term.
``I didn't do Measure R,'' Alarcon says in explaining how he found himself in an unexpected position. ``I didn't promote it whatsoever, but the voters decided it.''
After being termed out in the Senate and winning an unchallenged race last month for the Assembly, Alarcon stunned Los Angeles' political landscape by announcing he would seek re-election to the council.
Alarcon's decision angered those already running in the 7th District race, befuddled some political observers, and made the 53-year-old lawmaker appear overly ambitious and opportunistic in seeking the high-paying council job.
But for the Prius-driving Alarcon, the move was utterly practical.
``This is a very exciting time for the city under the leadership of Mayor (Antonio) Villaraigosa,'' he says. ``It's a time when the city is moving forward, and I just want to be part of it.''
In the weeks since Alarcon's announcement, the two candidates who figured to offer the biggest challenge -- Cindy Montanez and Felipe Fuentes Felipe Fuentes is a Democratic politician from the San Fernando Valley in the U.S. state of California. He won election to the California State Assembly for the 39th district on a May 15 special election. He slightly exceeded the 50%+1 margin needed to avoid a runoff. -- withdrew from the race and endorsed him.
That development virtually clears the path back to City Hall for Alarcon, representing a district that includes Pacoima, Lake View Terrace, Panorama City, Mission Hills, North Hills and Sylmar.
But perhaps more importantly, it underscores how the former schoolteacher has emerged as arguably the most powerful political figure in the San Fernando Valley San Fernando Valley
Valley, southern California, U.S. Northwest of central Los Angeles, the valley is bounded by the San Gabriel, Santa Susana, and Santa Monica mountains and the Simi Hills. .
``He may well be,'' says Jaime Regalado, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute at California State University, Los Angeles California State University, Los Angeles (also known as Cal State L.A., CSULA, or "'CSLA"') is a public university, part of the California State University system. . ``Of course, there are Congressmen (Howard) Berman and (Henry) Waxman. But Richard has proven that he's up there ... and certainly the most powerful Latino political figure in the Valley.''
Alarcon sidesteps such thoughts, although he acknowledges that -- as he seeks a second stint on the City Council -- he does so as an anomaly: a lawmaker with almost two decades' experience in elected office, and a throwback throwback
see atavism. to an earlier, pre-term-limits era.
``When I came to the council,'' he recalled recently, ``most of the members had been there for years -- Richard Alatorre Richard Alatorre is a politician, and a member of the Democratic Party. Alatorre has served as a member of the Los Angeles City Council. He was the first Latino to serve on the council in 23 years. , Nate Holden Nathaniel "Nate" R. Holden (1929-) served on the Los Angeles City Council from 1987 to 2002. He previously served a term on the California State Senate and was Assistant Chief Deputy to then Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn. , Joel Wachs Joel Wachs served for several terms as Los Angeles City Councilman for the 2nd district. He was first elected by defeating incumbent James B. Potter.
While in office, Wachs chaired the Public Works Committee and vice-chair of the Environmental Quality & Waste Management -- and some were legends like John Ferraro John Ferraro (May 14 1924—April 17 2001) served as a Los Angeles City Councilman from 1966 until his death. Early life
Ferraro was born in the working class suburb of Cudahy, California, just south of Los Angeles. .''
Ironically, it was an aspect of the 1993 election that first brought Alarcon to the City Council and now may bring him back. In that election, Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. voters also imposed a two-term limit on elected officials.
Knowing his years on the council were numbered, Alarcon left for the Senate in 1998, barely a year into his second term. Both his first two political campaigns were narrow triumphs: He won election to the council by 130 votes and then won a bitterly contested Senate race by 29 votes.
But in winning those two elections, Alarcon changed San Fernando Valley politics -- particularly in the East Valley, which LA Observed blogger Kevin Roderick has called ``the rising center of Latino political power in Los Angeles.''
In succeeding longtime incumbent Ernani Bernardi Ernani Bernardi (October 29, 1911-January 4, 2006) was a politician in Los Angeles, California. He represented District 7 on the Los Angeles City Council from 1961 to 1993, a district that covered the east San Fernando Valley. in 1993, Alarcon registered thousands of Latino voters who made up 70 percent of the 7th Council District's population -- turning what had been a demographically Latino area into a Latino political stronghold as well.
He did the same with the 20th Senate District, edging out former Assemblyman Richard Katz and becoming the first Latino representative of a district that had once been a bastion for non-Latino, carpetbagging car·pet·bag·ging
Of or relating to carpetbaggers or their practices.
Adj. 1. carpetbagging - presumptuously seeking success or a position in a new locality; "a carpetbag stranger"; "a capetbag politician" Democrats who kept moving into that district to seek office -- Herschel Rosenthal before Alarcon, and David Roberti before Rosenthal.
``There's an inevitability about Richard and always has been,'' says longtime Latino political consultant Bill Orozco, who worked for Roberti. ``He made political history in the Valley, and he'll make it again.''
Behind the scenes
Just how he will do it this time may not be so much an example of electoral power Electoral power is the power held by the electorate to decide the results of the elections as opposed to the power of the electorate to decide on policy. Thus the term refers to the voting in elections, not in direct democracy voting i.e. referendums, plebiscites etc. as of behind-the-scenes telephone calls, meetings, go-betweens and personal candor -- involving Alarcon, Villaraigosa, Montanez, Fuentes and other Latino leaders of the Valley who were all intent on avoiding a political bloodbath blood·bath also blood bath
Savage, indiscriminate killing; a massacre.
Noun 1. bloodbath - indiscriminate slaughter; "a bloodbath took place when the leaders of the plot surrendered"; "ten days after the that could possibly taint taint
an unpleasant odor and flavor in a human foodstuff of animal origin. Caused by the ingestion of the substance, commonly a plant such as Hexham scent, or while in storage, e.g. milk stored with pineapples, or as a result of animal metabolism, e.g. boar taint. Alarcon and potentially destroy political careers.
``For the three of us to have gone head-to-head would have been a grave, contentious situation,'' Alarcon concedes.
``They would have been strong candidates, and I can breathe a little easier. They're both friends. ... I'm very pleased that they've endorsed me, and I'm very excited about their futures because they both are phenomenal leaders, and I've vowed to do everything I can do to support their leadership.''
Only days after the Nov. 7 election, having given up his council seat early to go to the Senate, Alex Padilla Alex Padilla is a politician in California. He was elected as the State Senator for the 20th District of California in November 2006 and was inaugurated in early December. In order to enter the Senate he had to resign as Councilman for the 7th District on the Los Angeles City began squiring Fuentes around town and introducing his former chief of staff as his hand-picked successor.
``Alex made it seem like it was a fait accompli,'' says Hollywood restaurateur res·tau·ra·teur also res·tau·ran·teur
The manager or owner of a restaurant.
[French, from restaurer, to restore; see restaurant. Lucy Casado, whose late husband, Frank, was a founder of the Mexican-American Political Association and herself is a dona of Los Angeles Latino political circles. ``I guess it wasn't.
``My, how quickly things can change in the Valley.''
Montanez, the former mayor of San Fernando San Fernando, city, Argentina
San Fernando (săn fərnăn`dō), city (1991 pop. 144,761), Buenos Aires prov., E Argentina. It is a district administrative center in the Greater Buenos Aires area. , had also been priming herself to compete for the open council seat when she heard Alarcon had entered the race.
Montanez accused him of wanting to return to the council for the additional $50,000 the post pays every year, as well as a city pension that would kick in for a cumulative 10 years of service.
As an assemblyman, Alarcon earns $110,800 annually, plus a $153 per diem per diem adj. or n. Latin for "per day," it is short for payment of daily expenses and/or fees of an employee or an agent. for the days the legislative body meets. Beginning Jan. 1, City Council members will get $171,168 a year.
But all that criticism is now in the past, especially since Alarcon's endorsement could heavily influence who succeeds him in the Assembly, presuming pre·sum·ing
Having or showing excessive and arrogant self-confidence; presumptuous.
pre·suming·ly adv. he is elected to the council.
Alarcon, Montanez and Fuentes each deny a political deal was brokered, and a Villaraigosa representative said the mayor had no comment. The prospect of Alarcon on the council would give Villaraigosa another backer -- certainly more of an ally than he had in Padilla.
If there was ever any question about their ties, last spring's campaign to succeed Alarcon in the Senate erased them, as both the mayor and Alarcon endorsed Montanez in her unsuccessful bid against Padilla.
In last year's mayoral runoff, Alarcon endorsed Villaraigosa -- as he had in 2001 -- and introduced and nominated him at the important Los Angeles County Democratic Party endorsement meeting. There, daughter Andrea Alarcon delivered one of the three critical votes that gave Villaraigosa the party's backing.
Andrea Alarcon was later appointed by Villaraigosa to the city's Transportation Commission.
Like the mayor, Alarcon supports plans for expanding the Palmdale Regional Airport and building high-speed rail High-speed rail is a type of passenger rail transport that operates significantly faster than the normal speed of rail traffic. Specific definitions include 200-320 km/h (125-200 mph) - depending on whether the track is upgraded or new - by the European Union and above 90 mph for connections to other airports as part of adopting a regional approach to meeting Southern California's air travel needs.
In education, Alarcon revived one of his own pledges of his own ill-fated mayoral campaign when his brainchild -- the Valley Education Collaborative -- announced last month that it was targeting four low-performing Northeast Valley high schools for dramatic improvements in graduation rates and college admissions.
Alarcon, who as a volunteer teaches a class each semester at Arleta High, said it is not simply coincidence that the collaborative has undertaken its new role as the mayor eyes reform of the Los Angeles Unified School District The Los Angeles Unified School District (the "LAUSD") is the largest (in terms of number of students) public school system in California and the second-largest in the United States. Only the New York City Department of Education has a larger student population. as one of his top priorities.
At times, Alarcon talks as if he has never been away.
``From a professional career, I've been a part of the city's culture for more than 20 years,'' he says. ``The difference between being a state and local legislator is that it's a much more hands-on and not partisan job working on the City Council.
``It's also much more enjoyable, and there's more you can do on the City Council. Others have said this, and I agree. The best job I've ever had was on the City Council.''
Los Angeles politics, he says, is part of his life, a world he was weaned wean
tr.v. weaned, wean·ing, weans
1. To accustom (the young of a mammal) to take nourishment other than by suckling.
2. on and in which he rose in 1989 to become Mayor Tom Bradley's deputy for the San Fernando Valley.
In the last of Bradley's four terms, Alarcon learned the subtleties of City Hall's bureaucracy -- far different than Sacramento's -- and made lasting connections with the politicians, labor leaders, lobbyists and special interests who can make or break careers.
Ultimately, that led to the Eastside political clique (mathematics) clique - A maximal totally connected subgraph. Given a graph with nodes N, a clique C is a subset of N where every node in C is directly connected to every other node in C (i.e. C is totally connected), and C contains all such nodes (C is maximal). that had dominated Latino politics in California for an entire generation -- a clique that was run by Richard Polanco Richard G. Polanco, is a former California State Senate Majority leader and member of the California State Assembly. He is known for his significant efforts in increasing Latino representation in the California Legislature. , then a powerful state senator Noun 1. state senator - a member of a state senate
senator - a member of a senate and now an influential lobbyist.
Today, Polanco's former chief of staff, Saeed M. Ali, is Alarcon's chief of staff, and insiders believe that with ties still intact with Polanco, Alarcon would have little difficulty raising money for a rough-and-tumble spring campaign, if it comes to that.
But as anyone who drives a Prius will tell you, life isn't about only the money.
``Los Angeles is a city of glamour, and Antonio and a few others have proved that old legislators -- termed-out legislators in Sacramento -- do have some shot'' (at elected office in Los Angeles), says Jaime Regalado, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State Los Angeles, who has followed several of Alarcon's campaigns.
``Antonio opened that door, at least a bit. But it's the fact that he did, and the fact that Richard ran a good race in the mayor's campaign in which virtually everybody gave him plaudits.
``All that, I think, emboldened em·bold·en
tr.v. em·bold·ened, em·bold·en·ing, em·bold·ens
To foster boldness or courage in; encourage. See Synonyms at encourage.
Adj. 1. him to at least look close at coming home. There's the money, but I don't think it's the primary motivator. I think he would love not necessarily being the council person, but being (eventually) the mayor.''
Ambition has spoken
Alarcon is too shrewd politically to touch that, but his ambition has already spoken.
He was the first to announce his challenge to incumbent Mayor James Hahn's re-election, only to be forced aside by Villaraigosa and others -- though he always left a favorable impression during the debates.
It was the result, say those close to Alarcon, of the hard work he puts into issues behind the scenes.
Former Alarcon legislative aide Jose Atilio Hernandez remembers the long hours that his boss poured into developing his education plans, as well as his idealistic agenda that harkens back to the era of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and the dreams of Bobby Kennedy.
``He wants to end poverty in California,'' says Hernandez, now a consultant for an educational policy nonprofit. ``That right there tells you a lot about the man.''
But not all.
That in an age when too often politicians' biographies talk about overcoming troubled childhoods, Alarcon delights in reminiscing about growing up in Sun Valley and talking about his father, who ran a furniture upholstery shop.
That Alarcon grew up well-adjusted and well-liked -- being elected student body president at Francis Polytechnic High School. That he's still a bowler and that he has lived with his mother in her stucco home since the 2000 breakup of his marriage to ex-wife Corina, while he served in the Senate.
Nor the watershed moment in 1987 when a drunk driver killed the youngest of his five children, 3-year-old Richie Alarcon, as well as the boy's grandmother, Alarcon's mother-in-law.
Almost inconsolable, Alarcon eventually found forgiveness for the drunk driver, who also was killed in the crash. He and comedian George Lopez
George C. Lopez (born April 23, 1961) is an American comedian and actor. He runs and produces his own show called George Lopez. , a friend, created a scholarship foundation in Richie's name, and he became involved with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and in gang- and youth-violence prevention programs.
``I come to this from my religious beliefs,'' says Alarcon. ``I went to Catholic school in the '60s, during the Church's Ecumenical Council ecumenical council: see council, ecumenical. period and the idea of social justice was very prominent. I observed the culture of trying to do something to help the poor, and that's what I'm still trying to do.''
At Sylmar High School last month, he spoke movingly about a young man he met whose positive outlook on life changed when he lost some teeth in a freak accident.
Alarcon personally sought out a dentist for pro bono Short for pro bono publico [Latin, For the public good]. The designation given to the free legal work done by an attorney for indigent clients and religious, charitable, and other nonprofit entities. work that repaired the teenager's smile and restored his self-confidence.
``The way we solve some of the problems our young people face,'' said Alarcon, ``is by taking action and doing something about one problem at a time.''
He has updated his populist agenda from last year's mayoral campaign: Cleaning up City Hall with a ban on campaign donations of more than $100 from contractors and developers; giving the neighborhood councils Neighborhood councils are governmental or non-governmental bodies composed of local people who handle neighborhood problems. They can be found in many cities throughout the world. real power and control.
Most of all, look for Alarcon to praise the traditional values of the San Fernando Valley, as well as the hopes and aspirations of its growing Latino influence.
``No one understands the desire to attain the middle-class dream better than I do,'' he told an auditorium of teenage students wanting to go to college and their parents wanting desperately to see them there. ``Building middle-class dreams is about ending poverty.''
(1) In December 2004, then-Sen. Richard Alarcon speaks at a Los Angeles mayoral debate that also featured incumbent James Hahn and Antonio Villaraigosa, the ultimate winner.
David Sprague/Staff Photographer
(2 -- color) ALARCON