In CD8, Transportation Committee Member Bernard Parks Faces Two Challengers

Crash Course? Photo:## for Supervisor##

The race for the 8th District City Council race, pitting Councilman Bernard Parks against Forescee Hogan-Rowles and Jabari Jumaane was supposed to be a cakewalk for the incumbent.  Parks, like most of his fellow Council Members, has a massive fund raising and name recognition advantage.  However, in the wake of his significant loss to Mark Ridley-Thomas in the Supervisor’s race, Parks is not considered a political shoe-in by residents and activists in the 8th.

But Parks has been abandoned by some high-profile unions who have instead backed Hogan-Rowles, opening the possibility that there could be an upset brewing in South L.A.  Conversely, Parks is backed L.A. Clean Sweep, a city-wide group of budget hawks.  Parks is the only incumbent to receive their endorsement.

Parks has something of a strange record on transportation.  For starters, there’s the contrast between his reliable vote for transportation options as a member of the Metro Board of Directors and City Council Transportation Committee contrasted with his anti-bicycle positions he had as Chief of Police, most memorably the crackdown on Critical Mass at the 2000 Democratic National Convention.  Or, contrast his outspoken support for the Expo Line in South L.A. with his support for a pedestrian tunnel to move school students safely underneath the rail line.

Meanwhile, while they’re not using the term, Livable Streets have become a major issue in this election, in this case what kind of development will help the 8th District redevelop.  Parks has taken stands at odds with local community groups on the development plans for a new Fresh and Easy and on efforts to control the number, and types of liquor stores in the area.  What kind of businesses exist on a street, and how they’re designed, have a major impact on how people will use the sidewalks and public space provided.

In the case of the Fresh and Easy, Parks stood against community groups demanding that the parking lot for the store be located in the back to create a better pedestrian environment.  In what was a first for me, Parks responded to an angry email chain himself, defending the project and his decision to support it.

I evaluated this project and  came to the conclusion that a) a store was needed b) this design accommodated the store, delivery area , safety  and parking without negatively impacting the adjoining neighborhood.  The required set-backs , the land scape , the amount of parking , traffic flow and the window treatment were all considered enhancements to the project and the community.

While reasonable people can disagree on the best store design, the picture painted of Parks in the Wave Newspapers article on the liquor stores creates an extremely negative image, especially when Parks’ strength is his reputation upholding law and order.  We should note that the Wave Newspapers have had an anti-Parks tilt going back years, but I don’t see anything wrong with the facts of their reports.

Almost immediately upon his taking office, Parks has been at war with Community Coalition, the South Los Angeles organization founded by Rep. Karen Bass that fights the alcohol, gun and drug industries by influencing public policy. Among other things, the organization is dedicated to reducing the number of liquor stores and alcoholic outlets that line South L.A. streets.

Parks, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have a problem with them and quickly outraged the community early in his tenure by supporting the issuance of liquor licenses to even more venues in a neighborhood already known for its cheek-by-jowl liquor outlets and storefront churches.

Meanwhile Hogan-Rowles, who finished a distant 4th to Parks in 2003, doesn’t have much of a record as a transportation advocate or much of a platform on reform.  Go ahead, run a search on “Hogan-Rowles” and “Expo Line” and see what you get.  However, she is focusing on a redevelopment plan that would attract small businesses to the 8th and has vowed to fight to better the Exposition, Leimart and other parks in the district.  Her plan, to involve stakeholders in creating an executing development plans, sounds good on paper, but can be a lot harder to actually do in reality.


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