Politics, government and public life for Southern California

LA City Council Race: Choi accuses O’Farrell of xenophobic attacks

Mitch O'Farrell (L) and John Choi

Frank Stoltze

Mitch O'Farrell, left, and John Choi are competing to represent the 13th city council district in Los Angeles.

In a heated exchange at a debate in Hollywood Wednesday night, 13th District city council candidate John Choi accused rival Mitch O’Farrell of attempting to stir xenophobia among voters.

“My opponent has continued to attack me from day one, using language like ‘new arrival,' ‘outsider,’ and ‘not one of us,’” Choi told an audience inside Karapetian Hall at St. Garabed Armenian Church. “That type of language has been used for decades to raise xenophobic fears of outsiders and immigrants.”

Choi, 32, who is Korean American, pointed to a red campaign mailer that features a grainy picture of him above the words “not from our community.”

O’Farrell, 52, disavowed the mailer, which was sent by an independent committee. “I didn’t like it anymore than you did, John. I thought it was a terrible picture,” O’Farrell said. “Any sort of hint of discrimination has no place in a campaign.”

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Poll: Wendy Greuel leads Eric Garcetti in mayor's race

Los Angeles Mayor

AP

The mayor's race is neck and neck, according to a poll released Thursday. According to the Pat Brown Institute, Wendy Greuel leads Eric Garcetti by one point.

With just 12 days to go before the mayoral runoff, a poll released Thursday finds Wendy Greuel leading Eric Garcetti by one point — a statistical dead heat.

The survey from the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State L.A. is the latest sign of how unpredictable the race has become. Greuel leads with 46 percent, with Garcetti at 45 percent. Nine percent of voters were undecided.

The numbers are in dramatic contrast to a USC/L.A. Times poll released on April 20th that showed Garcetti with a 10-point lead.

Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute, cautioned that comparing polls is like comparing apples and oranges, as each survey has its own makeup of participants. As for why there may have been such a shift in support in the past three weeks,  he said: "It could be that more people are tuning into the race who weren’t tuned in before."

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South Korean president visits with Mayor Villaraigosa and Gov. Brown

South Korean President Park Attends Luncheon In Los Angeles

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

South Korean President Park Geun-hye, in purple dress, speaks with California Gov. Jerry Brown, far left, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as their translators listen in the foyer of Getty House.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villlaraigosa hosted South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Gov. Jerry Brown Thursday at Getty House, the mayor's official residence.

Just blocks from Koreatown, the central point of the city's estimated 300,000 residents with roots in Korea, the mayor toasted the new president saying, "L.A. is unthinkable without its Korean community."

The largest metropolitian concentration of Koreans outside the Korea Peninsula is in Los Angeles.

"In fact on my three visits to Korea, I'm always introduced as the mayor of the 7th largest Korean city," Villaraigosa said, to laughter.

The luncheon was the final event on Park's first official visit as president to the United States since her election in February. Visiting Los Angeles and Korean ex-pats has become a traditional stop for Korean presidents upon taking office. Park visited New York and Washington earlier in the week, and met President Barack Obama. She met with Korean-Americans Wednesday evening in Los Angeles, and stopped by the Getty Center Thursday morning.

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Maven's Morning Coffee: the state of city parks, a new mayoral TV spot, the comeback of Carmen Trutanich?

School Bonds - 1

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

KPCC looks at the challenges of funding city parks -- and what that means for the next mayor.

Good morning, readers. Welcome to the Maven's Morning Coffee -- a listing of the important headlines, news conferences, public meetings and announcements you need to know to fuel up and tackle your day.

The Maven's Morning Coffee is also available as a daily email. Click here to subscribe.

Today is Thursday, May 9, and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:

Headlines

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Beverly Hills last night to accept an award from the Pacific Council on International Policy, reports the Los Angeles Times.

KPCC looks at the state of city parks. "Without a change in city budget policy or an increase in parcel taxes to fund parks, things will just get worse ... They will continue to cut programs, layoff staff and increase fees to users," the station reports.

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How the '86 immigration reform bill changed the lives of one LA family

Kitty Felde/ KPCC

New citizens Oscar and Martha Mendoza visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC

Kitty Felde/ KPCC

Tony Rico (nee Mendoza) was five when his parents began the process of becoming American citizens.

Kitty Felde/ KPCC

Tony Rico (nee Mendoza) and husband Nolan Kulbiski are surrounded by Tony's family: l-r: younger brother Dakota, mother Martha Mendoza, Kulbiski, Rico, father Oscar Mendoza, sister Kelly Mendoza Kennedy and her husband James Kennedy.


This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee continues to work on an immigration reform bill, as the House prepares to release its own version.

The last time Congress passed a comprehensive immigration bill, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, "Top Gun" was the box office king, and a Bill Buckner error in the World Series became the stuff of legend. The 1986 immigration reform bill put two million undocumented immigrants on the path to citizenship.
 
The story of two of those immigrants was documented a quarter century ago, as a young couple made their way through the process that led to their American dream.  
 
The story of Oscar and Martha Mendoza began with a stack of paper three inches high — rent receipts, paystubs, tax returns, even refund checks for coins lost in that ancient technology known as a payphone. Oscar said he got a big box, "and every time when I receive papers, I put them in."
 
Oscar Mendoza came to the U.S. in 1979 in the trunk of a car. He was 19 when he fled El Salvador after his uncle was killed in the civil war. Oscar met Martha on a bus near L.A. She was also undocumented, an immigrant from Mexico. They married and got jobs — he at an auto detail shop, she at a balloon factory. By the time our interview took place in 1987, they had two American-born children: five-year-old Tony and two-year-old Kelly.
 
Oscar had heard rumors of a new law that promised legal status. It was the Immigration Reform and Control Act — signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Oscar knew he'd need proof that he'd lived and worked in the U.S. for a number of years. That box of papers became the Mendozas’ proof they could qualify for citizenship. 
 
Sitting down with volunteer attorney Marina Manessy, Oscar began to cry: "This is my life you know." Manessy said the papers were the only way he had of remaining in this country. "He has a great deal at stake here," she said. "He has children who were born here. The country means a lot to him."

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