Sidewalk Politics Enters Into the City Controller’s Race

The politics of sidewalk repair. When Dennis Zine announced a plan to spend $1 million on sidewalk repair yesterday, political opponent Cary Brazeman circulated a flyer with this picture of Dennis Zine's home block in 2007. Brazeman joked that it was nice that Zine was helping other constituents get the same services he provides himself.

Whether a coincidence or not, yesterday City Council Member Dennis Zine showed one of the advantages of political incumbency. Zine, on the same day that voters could main in ballots for city-wide races including the Controller’s race,  announced a $1 million plan to fix sidewalks in 50 “hotspots” in Zine’s West Valley District. Zine’s press release is available here.

Zine released a different before and after, showing the sidewalk at Oso Ave. and Hart St. in Winnetka, before and after reconstruction.

As Zine’s opponents in the Controller’s race went on the offensive, the Councilman responded that he’s always run a lean Council office and has always used the excess funds to supplement street budgets. He told the Daily News,

“They will say what they want to say. The truth is we have been saving money all along and using it to supplement the budget for streets and other projects. None of those got the attention they deserved, but we have been doing this all along.”

 The argument against Zune was best articulated by Cary Brazeman, one of Zine’s leading opponents in the Controller’s race, who charged that it’s not that fixing sidewalks is a bad or political idea, but that the timing is suspect.

“Zine’s neglect of the problem for 12 years is shameful,” Brazeman said. “The fact is money should have been allocated to fix West Valley sidewalks long ago, instead of being hoarded by the councilman until a month before the election.”

Brazeman accented his point by circulating pictures of the sidewalk in front of Zine’s residence in the West Valley from five years ago both before and after the sidewalk was fixed by the city. During a recession, Zine’s block got new sidewalks even as the city fell further and further behind in its sidewalk maintenance.

For Livable Streets advocates, unless they have a strong preference in the Controller’s race, yesterday’s announcement by Zine is good news, regardless of whether or not it was a political stunt.

If the timing is a coincidence, then the good news is simply that one community is going to get better sidewalks. The pedestrian experience is so miserable, especially in parts of the Valley. A $1 million one-time investment is a drop in the bucket compared to the city’s massive sidewalk repair bill, but every little bit helps.

If it was a political stunt, the news is even better. The City Council Member who less than two years ago declared on television that “we are a car culture here in Southern California…I don’t think we’re ever going to change that,” the Councilman that spends his 4th of July singing jingles from car commercials, the Council Member who’s most famous for helping get Justin Bieber a speeding ticket is scoring political points by fixing sidewalks. That’s progress.

Zine has previously opposed both the attempt to require sidewalk repair before adjacent properties could be sold and the attempt to place a road repair bond on the May 21 ballot that would have also repaired sidewalks on adjacent streets.

Note: Streetsblog reached out to Dennis Zine’s office twice to try and get a list of locations that will be fixed with the new proposal. They never even responded to our requests. However, while doing research we were able to confirm that yesterday was the first time the word “sidewalk” appeared in one of Zine’s press releases.

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