Thursday, July 5, 2001
Colleagues Vote 9-5 to Elect Alex Padilla as City Council President
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Alex Padilla was elected president of the Los Angeles City Council Tuesday, giving the 28-year-old engineer-turned-politician from Pacoima the key role in shaping the reconfigured council.
Padilla’s colleagues elected him on a 9-5 vote over Ruth Galanter, a veteran who has served as council president since the death of longtime leader John Ferraro in April.
The council also elected Mark Ridley-Thomas to be president pro tem over newcomer Jan Perry.
As president, Padilla will have the opportunity to wield enormous power at City Hall, assigning committee chairmanships and controlling the flow of proposed ordinances, contracts, and other motions to committees and to the council floor for votes. He will also serve as the council’s chief spokesman and will represent it in negotiations with new Mayor Jim Hahn.
He also will run City Council meetings.
Padilla takes the reins at a time of enormous change in city government. Term limits have swept out nearly half the council and all citywide elected officials, the 1999 charter is widely seen as taking full force now, and the redistricting process is due to commence immediately.
Padilla’s selection carries important symbolism for many city residents. For the first time since Joel Wachs’ presidency more than a decade ago, people in the secession-leaning Valley will have a representative in a key City Hall post. Latinos unhappy over the defeat of mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa and Hahn’s hard-hitting and, some argue, offensive campaign will also have in Padilla a symbolic representative.
Padilla was a staunch Hahn supporter during the mayoral campaign, joining a small group of high-profile Latino elected officials who opted against Villaraigosa.
Of the six rookie City Council members, five voted for Padilla and were joined by four veterans. They were Eric Garcetti, Janice Hahn, Cindy Miscikowski, Nick Pacheco, Padilla, Ed Reyes, Joel Wachs, Jack Weiss and Dennis Zine.
Voting for Galanter were herself, Hal Bernson, Nate Holden, Ridley-Thomas and newcomer Jan Perry.
Wachs and Weiss were considered the swing votes, and their decision to enter the Padilla camp sealed the election. Even before votes were cast Galanter virtually acknowledged her defeat.
“I understand that lots of deals have been made and lots more deals have been offered,” she told the council before the vote. “That is the nature of politics. It is sort of the seamier side of politics.”
Like Galanter, Padilla noted that city government is undergoing sweeping changes.
“I believe I can offer the continuity for that transition,” he said.
Despite his age, Padilla already was due to become a powerbroker at City Hall by virtue of his seniority. Because of term limits, few council members elected since 1993 will ever serve more than eight years, but Padilla may well serve 10 and end up being the council’s senior member two terms from now since he was first elected to fill out the unexpired term of Richard Alarcon.
The young councilman was so popular in his district that he was re-elected to his first full term in April without opposition.
Padilla got his start in politics as a Coro fellow working on Art Torres’ campaign for insurance commissioner. Trying to put together a phone bank, he consulted Alarcon, who referred him to Valley real estate businessman—and former engineer—Tony Cardenas.
Padilla and Cardenas discovered they grew up just a few blocks (and more than a decade) apart, that they had some of the same high school teachers, that their fathers both came from Jalisco in Mexico. When Cardenas ran for the Legislature, Padilla became his campaign manager.
Later, Padilla worked as a local liaison for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and was appointed by then-Mayor Richard Riordan to the city Building & Safety Commission.
He was elected to the City Council in 1999 to represent the Seventh District, which includes the communities of Arleta, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sun Valley and Sylmar.
He grew up in Pacoima and graduated from San Fernando High School.
Voting for Ridley-Thomas for the number two spot on the council were Bernson, Galanter, Garcetti, Miscikowski, Reyes, Ridley-Thomas, Wachs, Weiss and Zine. Perry received votes from Hahn, Holden, Pacheco and Padilla and herself.
Ridley-Thomas touted his experience as creator of the Eight District Empowerment Congress, one of the inspirations of the city’s neighborhood council movement. He said he was in a unique position to help foster councils citywide.
Ridley-Thomas, who supported Villaraigosa for mayor, has two more years to run in his final term on the City Council.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company