District 4 LA City Council race: LaBonge vs. Box vs. O'Grady

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Patricia Nazario/KPCC

Candidates Stephen Box (left) and Tomas O'Grady (right) are challenging incumbent Tom LaBonge for L.A. City Council District 4. The Daily News, L.A. Weekly and Southern Cal. Food Truck Assoc. back Box. The L.A. Times has endorsed O'Grady. LaBonge ran unopposed in 2007.

City Councilman Tom LaBonge faces two challengers to represent the district that stretches from North Hollywood and Griffith Park to Koreatown and Silver Lake.

What matters most in this race might depend on who you ask.

Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge has worked for the City of Angels in one way or another since 1974. That’s 37 years, the last 10 on the City Council.

“If you do not set aside money for libraries and parks, you're not a city of greatness, and Los Angeles is a city of greatness.”

The 57-year-old councilman pitched Proposition L on KPCC’s "Patt Morrison" show. The ballot measure would slice libraries a bigger piece of the city’s budget pie.

He participated over the phone. His two opponents were in studio.

One challenger, Tomas O’Grady, was born in Ireland. “The controller just admitted the other day that the city spends $5 million per year on cell phones. That is half the library budget needed for last year.”

L.A. city libraries have gone dark two days a week, because of a $10 million budget shortfall. O’Grady says he’ll run his city hall office the way he runs his home: on a tight budget and within its means. If voters elect him, the 44-year-old promises to cuts in his and his staff’s salaries.

The third contender for the district, Stephen Box, promises transparency in government. “I’m in favor of Measure L.” Australian-born Box says the library measure, Measure L, deceives voters.

He promises to speak plainly if he’s elected. “This is the kind of double dealing we’ve come to expect from City Hall. It’s why these ballot measure are poorly crafted. They’re symbolic gestures at best. So, I’m gonna vote yes for Measure L and when in office, the first thing I’ll do is remove the cost-recovery language.”

Box gets around the Southland mostly by bike; he’s an avid activist for cyclists’ rights. On the campaign trail, the 53-year-old film producer emphasizes his “Great Streets” program.

That’s won over many of the city’s food truck operators. Box hopes that’ll mean a lot of food truck Twitter followers will become L.A. city voters in an off-year election with low voter turnout.

Of the 300,000 adults who live in Council District 4, fewer than half are registered to vote.

The Daily News and the L.A. Weekly endorse Stephen Box. The Los Angeles Times backs Tomas O’Grady.

Term limits will make this City Council race the last for incumbent Tom LaBonge. He ran unopposed in 2007. If LaBonge's not reelected, it'll be the first time an L.A. City Council incumbent has lost that seat since Ruth Gallanter beat Pat Russell in 1987.

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