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8th District candidates spar in South Los Angeles debate

February 12, 2011 |  1:47 pm

From the first moments of Saturday’s debate in South Los Angeles, two candidates vying to unseat Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard C. Parks argued that the incumbent had neglected a long list of problems including police response times and sidewalk repair.

In a series of fiery exchanges, candidate Forescee Hogan-Rowles charged that Parks’ contentious relationships with both the police union and the Department of Water and Power had hurt the city's 8th District, which stretches from neighborhoods around the University of Southern California south to Crenshaw and Vermont Knolls.

“This district has suffered long enough," said Hogan-Rowles, who is being backed by many of the city’s unions. "We’ve put up with disconnectedness with our City Council office; we’ve put up with streets that aren’t kept, that aren’t swept. We’ve put up with city services that aren’t well, and we’ve put up with lackluster performances in terms of economic development. It is time that we take a stand.”

Parks’ other challenger, Jabari Jumaane, a 25-year city firefighter who said he was running “because the average working-class person needs a voice,” said the 8th District had been ignored.

But Parks, who has worked for the city for 45 years and served as the city’s police chief before he was elected to the City Council in 2003, vigorously defended his record, ticking off accomplishments in the 8th District, such as the construction of sit-down restaurants, the establishment of walking tracks at city parks, assistance for residents affected by foreclosures and the trimming of 12,000 trees.

“I gave you the report card of what the public asked me to concentrate on. We’ve achieved what they asked us to do,” Parks said. 

For nearly two hours, Parks and Hogan-Rowles sparred before a packed auditorium at Angeles Mesa Elementary School at a forum sponsored by the Park Mesa Heights Community Council.

Parks repeatedly challenged Hogan-Rowles’ knowledge of the district and the city’s budget process, which he oversees as chairman of that committee on the City Council.

He also told the audience of more than 125 people that Hogan-Rowles, a former commissioner on the DWP board, was partly to blame for the rise in utility rates.

“When you look at your water bill, just remember her name, and remember the increase that you’ve had,” Parks said.

Hogan-Rowles shot back that Parks could have done more to stop the rate hike: “We still, even with that rate increase, have the lowest water rates in the state,” she said. 

-- Maeve Reston

Read more in Sunday's Los Angeles Times.