Candidates announce plans to seek LaBonge seat

09/10/2013 3:56 pm0 commentsViews: 55
Tom LaBonge Photo by Gary McCarthy

Tom LaBonge
Photo by Gary McCarthy

From City News Service

City Councilman Tom LaBonge is termed out of office by the city’s term limits law in June 2015. But with the 2015 city election about 18 months away, the list of people hoping to take his place on the council is beginning to grow.

Another city councilman’s chief-of-staff is expected next week to begin her campaign to replace LaBonge.

Joan Pelico, who has worked for the past eight years for Councilman Paul Koretz and his predecessor, Jack Weiss, said she intends to take a vacation day to file her paperwork with the Ethics Commission next week.

Three other potential candidates have already filed papers to begin fundraising — Teddy Davis, a former press secretary for then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; Tara Bannister, a vice president of the National Apartment Association; and Carolyn Ramsay, LaBonge’s chief of staff.

Pelico, 58, is a Sherman Oaks resident who traces her professional beginnings to the fitness industry. She began opening health clubs in the late 1970s just as aerobics was gaining popularity.

She fell into politics when she became involved in the parents’ group at her child’s Sherman Oaks elementary school. While attending a meeting, “I raised my hand and the next thing I knew I was president of the parents’ association,” Pelico said.

Through interactions with City Council representatives that included requesting discretionary funds to pay for library books, she said she was recruited to work as a field deputy in the Fifth Council District, then represented by Weiss.

Pelico became chief of staff for Koretz three months ago, when Rich Llewellyn went to lead Mayor Eric Garcetti’s transition.

“I’ve been on the ground for a very long time and I’ve been listening to people for 41 years,” which includes her time in the fitness industry, Pelico said, “so I believe my experience with people and everything I do is with a sense of urgency. I don’t let anything sit on my desk. It’s kind of hard to keep up with me.”

During that time she said she has found that most issues important to residents boil down to “quality of life.”

“Everybody wants to feel safe,” their children to have a safe route to school and traffic congestion issues to be resolved, including improving their public transportation options, she said.

Ramsay said she is “excited to be running” for the district seat where she has been involved for the past dozen years as a community activist and council staffer.

Ramsay, a former journalist, became a community activist to create more green space in and around her neighborhood. She said she hopes to “bring innovative ideas” to the job.

Ramsay said she was the “point person” in the purchase of the Cahuenga Peak that added 138 acres to Griffith Park in 2010. She also led the effort to place a median on the north end of Larchmont Boulevard, she said.

“I love the work I’m doing” as a staffer and previously as an activist, she said. “I felt like I was able to make positive change in my city — that is the most thrilling experience I’ve had professionally, working as a problem solver and consensus builder. … I want to continue be a part of it.”

The 35-year-old Davis called LaBonge a “friend’” and said he would be “building on the work that [LaBonge has] done in the district.”

“I’m running for City Council because I want L.A. to work for every family in every neighborhood,” Davis said. “Between now and 2015, I will be in every corner of our district talking with voters about how we can create jobs, reduce traffic and keep neighborhoods clean and safe.”

One of his top priorities would be to push for improved public transportation connecting the San Fernando Valley to the Westside, Davis said.

Davis said he has a “very specific, intense connection” to the district, having grown up in Los Feliz and attending school until the 12th grade in Sherman Oaks.

He is a fellow with USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics and previously covered national politics for ABC News.

The Fourth Council District, which Pelico characterized as “eclectic” because it includes a little bit of everything, runs from Hancock Park to Hollywood and includes Toluca Lake, Los Feliz, Sherman Oaks and Windsor Square.

LaBonge has represented the district for the last 14 years since winning a special election to succeed the late Councilman John Ferraro, who died in office. LaBonge was a field deputy for Ferraro.

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