Bell overwhelmingly OKs council recall; LA City Council incumbents re-elected

A voter holds a ballot and a flyer while waiting to vote in the special election in Bell on March 8, 2011.
A voter holds a ballot and a flyer while waiting to vote in the special election in Bell on March 8, 2011.
Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo

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Residents of the city of Bell ousted four City Council members who faced corruption charges. Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks appeared to be narrowly re-elected today, while five other L.A. City Council incumbents were preparing for new terms.

Updated at 12:35 p.m. | Permalink

LA Unified incumbents win re-election

Voters in L.A. Unified’s school board elections yesterday returned three incumbents to the board.

Incumbents Marguerite LaMotte, Tamar Galatzan and Richard Vladovic won re-election by overwhelming margins. Four of L.A. Unified’s seven school board seats were up for grabs.


Updated at 11:26 a.m. | Permalink

Bell city voter: 'Now people are paying attention'

Bell voters turned out in large numbers to make their voice heard on Tuesday. Bell's new council officially takes office in April. Read more...

Updated at 9:20 a.m. | Permalink

LA Unified School Board incumbents re-elected

Election night put smiles on the faces of incumbents running for the L.A. Unified Board of Education.

Turnout was pretty low. Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte was the candidate with the most votes with 26,000 votes. On the flipside, Richard Vladovic, incumbent, won with 9,000 votes.

Money poured into school races over the last few weeks – $2 million. It seems to have made a difference in getting the message out.

Marguerite LaMotte won with 75 percent of the vote and support from teachers.

Vladovic received a lot of money from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's allies and the SEIU, winning 63 percent of the vote.

District 5 was up for grabs after Yolie Flores decided not to run for re-election. That race looks to be heading for a runoff, with Luis Sanchez winning just 45 percent of the vote in a crowded field. Bennett Kayser, supported by UTLA, came in second with 39 percent of the vote.

There were no real surprises, other than the money that went into the races. However, incumbents held onto their seats. The balance of power at L.A. Unified remains the same, with candidates supportive of Villaraigosa's education reforms still on board. Candidates supported by teachers unions remain a minority on the school board.

- Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, Hettie Lynne Hurtes & Mike Roe

Updated at 8:03 a.m. | Permalink

LA City Council incumbents re-elected

L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks narrowly won re-election yesterday, despite heavy spending by labor unions to defeat him.

Parks has 7,934 votes to Forescee Hogan-Rowles' 6,858 votes. In third, Jabari S. Jumaane received 797 votes, but it doesn't look like it was enough to force a runoff between Parks and Hogan-Rowles.

That 1,076-vote difference puts Parks just over 50 percent, which he needs to avoid a runoff. Parks declared victory just after midnight, but Hogan-Rowles says up to 3,000 absentee and provisional ballots have yet to be counted, so she's not conceding.

It will be tough for Hogan-Rowles to overcome the thousand vote disadvantage, but if Parks is forced into a runoff, it will be because city labor unions spent so much to get rid of Parks – upwards of a million dollars.

As head of the City Council's budget committee, Parks has pushed for layoffs to help reduce the city's budget deficit. This upset some unions, particularly those representing police and DWP workers.

The other City Council incumbents running for re-election won – which is pretty mch what happens in City Council elections. This includes Jose Huizar, who faced a bitter campaign against former friend Rudy Martinez.

There is one new City Council member – Mitchell Englander, who was his retiring predecessor's chief of staff.

All the measures on the L.A. ballot passed, except for Measure O, which would have imposed a tax on oil drilling in Los Angeles. It was meant to raise money for cash-strapped Los Angeles in the face of a $350 million budget deficit. Measure O lost 51 to 49 percent.

Measures to tax medical marijuana and to roll back pensions for new police officers and firefighters passed. Two measures to reform the DWP also passed.

One is meant to insure the DWP makes payments to the city's general fund, and the other establishes a ratepayer advocate. Details of the ratepayer advocate have yet to be worked out and will have to be worked out by City Council, so it's yet to be seen what sort of authority that advocate will have. It comes in the wake of increasing frustration with DWP over the past few years.

- Frank Stoltze, Hettie Lynne Hurtes & Mike Roe

Updated at 7:10 a.m. | Permalink

Parks in tight race to keep his seat; Other incumbents heading for victory

In the South Los Angeles Eighth District, Bernard Parks drew 50.89 percent of the vote in a three-candidate race, with all 95 precincts counted.

Forescee Hogan-Rowles, the head of a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution who received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds from labor unions, was second with 43.99 percent. Jabari S. Jumaane was third with 5.11 percent.

Hogan-Rowles said there were approximately 1,800 to 3,000 ballots remaining to be counted and "a better estimate of how many provisional ballots and absentee ballots received on Election Day" is expected later today.

"While the results of the election are inconclusive... I'm proud that we've got Bernard Parks on the ropes and he's desperately swinging and missing," Hogan-Rowles said. "Given the trends we saw as the results came in, we are in a position to force a runoff."

If Parks falls below a majority, he would face Hogan-Rowles in a runoff May 17.

Parks, a former police chief and a fiscal conservative who chairs the council's Budget and Finance Committee, has advocated layoffs and furloughs to help close the city's massive deficit.

Councilmen Paul Krekorian, Tom LaBonge, Tony Cardenas, Herb Wesson and Jose Huizar each enjoyed a relatively easy re-election night.

Krekorian, who represents the Second District, in the northeast San Fernando Valley, was the first to declare victory Tuesday night.

"Tonight, the people again have spoken clearly and have restated their demand for reform, accountability and effectiveness," he said, and added that aside from the budget crisis, the city's "most important and perhaps most difficult mission is to solve the crisis of confidence in our city government."

Wesson, who represents the 10th District, which includes Mid-City, said, "It's gratifying to have such a strong vote of confidence from the people I serve, especially in view of the many challenges facing the city."

Meanwhile, Mitchell Englander was poised to become the newest member of the council.

He previously served the 12th District, located in the northwest San Fernando Valley, as chief of staff to incumbent Councilman Greig Smith, who did not seek re-election.

City Council President Eric Garcetti told a local wire service about his expectations for the council in the coming months.

"I'd like to see this council pass civilian pension reform in the next couple of months, and immediately sit down with our union partners and balance next year's budget," he said. "I think you can get more at the table with people negotiating than demonizing them and yelling at them, but our union partners will have to sacrifice, just as the people of Los Angeles are sacrificing with cut services."

"If this council, I think, keeps focused on those two things – restoring the trust of the people and balancing this budget, then I think we can focus on the other main goal, which is getting people back to work and this economy going."

- KPCC wire services

Updated at 7:04 a.m. | Permalink

High voter turnout in Bell as residents oust City Council members facing corruption charges

Over 95 percent of voters chose to recall Mayor Oscar Hernandez, Vice Mayor Teresa Jacobo and two other members of the city council – George Mirabal and former Councilman Luis Artiga.

Danny Harber will fill the rest of Jacobo's term. Ana Maria Quintana won the vote to fill Artiga's remaining term. Full terms will be served by winners Ali Saleh, Nestor E. Valencia and Violeta Alvarez.

Valencia ran on a slate of candidates called "Justice For Bell," which included special ed teacher's aide Miguel Sanchez. Sanchez died days before the election after showing flu-like symptoms. His name remained on the ballot, and he came in second to Ana Maria Quintana.

KPCC's Corey Moore attended a victory party at Valencia's headquarters. "The first order of business is to move the meeting to a much larger place," said Valencia, in the wake of packed City Council meetings. "It’s just logical for me and common sense. We move on to that. Then it’s gonna be city manager. The city manager has said he’ll be here 30 days after the election. So that’s gonna go. They’ll probably be some opportunity to pay some bills."

Valencia also says he wants to disband the Bell city police force, while lowering exorbitant salaries and pensions.

The new members of the Bell City Council officially take their seats at the beginning of April.

There are at least 10,000 registered voters in Bell. About a third turned out – around a thousand more than the lat election. At one location, the line stretched out the door.

One 19-year-old said he was excited about the election. An older man who spoke with KPCC's Corey Moore was more cautioned and didn't see this as a victory for Bell, but took a wait-and-see attitude.

- Corey Moore, Steve Julian & Mike Roe

Earlier: Permalink

LA suburb Bell overwhelmingly OKs council member recall

Voters in the scandal-plagued suburb of Bell turned out in force, leaving no doubt that they wanted four embattled council members facing corruption charges to get out.

More than 95 percent of voters cast ballots Tuesday in favor of recalling council members Teresa Jacobo, George Mirabal, Mayor Oscar Hernandez and former Councilman Luis Artiga.

All four have pleaded not guilty to dozens of fraud and other charges. They are accused of looting the city of millions of dollars by doling out enormous salaries to themselves.

In the race to fill Jacobo's remaining term, retired baker Danny Harber won with 54 percent of the vote, according to final election returns.

Attorney Ana Maria Quintana received 44 percent of the vote to fill Artiga's remaining term. Miguel A. Sanchez, who died last week, came in second with 23 percent.

In the race to fill three four-year terms on the council, the top vote-getters were businessman Ali Saleh, followed by Nestor E. Valencia and Violeta Alvarez.

Lorenzo Velez, the only member of the current council who was not charged, sought re-election, but lost. He was paid just $7,500 a year for his part-time service.

Velez was upbeat, however, when he spoke to The Associated Press, saying the big victory was for the community.

"The turnout was amazing," he said. "It shows that our community has finally come to its senses, and I'm going to work as hard as I can to make sure there's honest government and accountability."

Hernandez, Artiga, former City Manager Robert Rizzo and former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia sat in a courtroom listening to testimony at a preliminary hearing a few miles away as voters cast their ballots. They are among the eight current and former Bell officials facing charges in the corruption scandal.

"Despite all the recent problems, I wish the very best to the people of the city of Bell and to its new elected city council and mayor," Hernandez said in a statement.

"I believe in America and know that things will improve for the city and also that I will be vindicated in court," he added.

Hernandez and Mirabal had been up for re-election but decided not to run after the scandal broke. Artiga, whose term would have expired in 2013, resigned after he and the others were arrested.

Jacobo, whose term also expires in 2013, chose to remain in office and fight the recall launched last summer after residents learned of the generous salaries, including an annual compensation package of $1.5 million for Rizzo.

It was "corruption on steroids," Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said about the salaries and dozens of low-interest loans of city money to favored people.

The replacement candidates represented a cross-section of the city. They included an attorney, high school English teacher, health care administrator, real estate agent, small-business owner, construction contractor, truck driver, social worker, retired baker and environmental activist.

© 2011 The Associated Press.