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Big money rolling into Los Angeles City Council race

February 3, 2011 |  1:47 pm

Labor allies of Forescee Hogan-Rowles have aired their first radio spot in support of her bid to unseat Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who represents the 8th District in South Los Angeles.

The ads do not mention Parks, the former police chief who is seeking his third term on the council in the March 8 election. A female narrator describes Hogan-Rowles' work at the South L.A.-based nonprofit she heads, Community Financial Resource Center. The organization provides financial services and loans to business owners and residents in low-income communities in Los Angeles.

The spot credits Hogan-Rowles with delivering "over $15 million directly to business owners in our community" and says she "knows what it takes to get people working."

"Forescee is a mother like me who understands that our community's future is dependent on creating an environment in which our children can learn and thrive without the threat of gang violence," the narrator says.

The new spots have aired on KDAY-FM (93.5) and KJLH-FM (102.3), an urban contemporary station that is described on its website as the city's "No. 1 black-owned and operated" station. The 8th District has the highest concentration of black voters of any district in the city, according to consultants involved in the race.

The ads were paid for by a newly formed independent group known as Working Californians to Support Forescee Hogan-Rowles for City Council 2011. Reports filed Thursday show that the committee received $300,000 last week from the powerful International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, which represents 8,600 employees of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Committee reports filed with the City Ethics Commission were signed by the union's leader Brian D’Arcy, who was listed as treasurer. The independent committee also received $50,000 Wednesday from the political action committee of IBEW Local 11.

D'Arcy's group has endorsed Hogan-Rowles, a former commissioner on the DWP board, and he has called her "a trailblazer in breaking down barriers and expanding opportunity for our community."

Parks cited the independent expenditure as evidence that IBEW Local 18 is trying to assert greater control over the City Council. He added that Hogan-Rowles should have been more vigorous in her oversight of the pension and benefits granted to DWP workers while she served on the utility's board, given the city's crumbling financial situation.

"It's clear that union has had a sweetheart deal for a number of years," said Parks, who described the DWP's pension costs as "bloated" and noted that worker benefits are consuming an increasing share of the utility's operating costs. "There is no shock that that union would want to keep the status quo."

"The opponents that we're running against," Parks said, referring to the city's labor unions, "are not residents in the 8th District; they do not vote in the 8th District, but they're trying their best to control the 8th District with their funds. Labor groups believe that they are in charge of the City Council and that the City Council should work for them, versus working for the public."

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor has also formed an independent committee on Hogan-Rowles' behalf. So far the group has not aired any ads. It has spent $31,129 on field expenses, phone banking, voter data and consultants.

Parks, a fiscal conservative who heads the council's budget committee, has long had a contentious relationship with L.A. labor unions, and it has grown more heated during the city's budget debate over pension benefits for workers. When Parks ran for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2008, the county labor federation spent $8.5 million to defeat him.

Hogan-Rowles raised $21,614 on her own through Jan. 22 to Parks' $131,426. In an interview earlier this week, the candidate said she had just met the threshold to qualify for public matching funds -- which requires a candidate to raise at least $25,000 in contributions of $250 or less.

"It was very grinding, but we've now crossed that and we expect the money is going to flow," she said.

Hogan-Rowles' campaign must submit paperwork in order to receive matching funds. If she is certified by the City Ethics Commission, Parks will also be eligible for the matching fund money.  


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-- Maeve Reston (@maevereston)