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Monday, February 14, 2011

LA Daily News endorses Stephen Box for CD 4

It's all good.


Daily News editorial: Stephen Box for Council District 4

COUNCILMAN Tom LaBonge has dedicated his professional life to the city of Los Angeles. Through four decades he has worked in City Hall in some capacity, starting with Mayor Tom Bradley's Youth Council - all the while cheering on the city he loves. His extraordinary service ought to be commended, but it doesn't make him the best candidate in the race for Council District 4, which stretches from Silver Lake to North Hollywood.

The municipal structure of Los Angeles is currently in a crisis unlike any time in recent history. Budget shortages are forcing city officials to rethink every function, every service delivery method and every expenditure the city makes. Without fresh ideas and new eyes among the policymakers, the city could well fold in on itself - arbitrarily cutting until no municipal service functions well.

Though LaBonge clearly has a deep commitment and historical understanding of L.A. and CD 4, he hasn't offered any evidence during his campaign - or during his decade on the council - that he can help the city reinvent itself during this watershed moment.

By comparison, challenger Stephen Box has.

Box, a community activist with broad-based grass-roots support in the district, has fresh ideas about how to make the city work for its residents, an excitement about shaking up the status quo at City Hall and strong, though rough leadership skills - the kind of which are in serious shortage around the horseshoe in council chambers.

Rough is the right word to describe Box's style. Though he's clearly intelligent and thoroughly steeped in the mechanics of city politics and policy, his biggest obstacle is communicating his message and his platform. Instead of methodically laying out a plan of action, his conversations leapfrog from idea to idea. It's as if he has so much to say about transportation or the Universal City development or transparency or city customer service or whatever that it bottlenecks in his brain before it can reach his mouth.

If he can't overcome this in the weeks leading up to the March 8 election or during the subsequent runoff election (assuming he can force the well-known LaBonge into a runoff), he won't be able to turn on voters who are reluctant to back a relative unknown.

What's unfortunate is that Box seems to have no problem on that score with written communication. As a contributing writer to CityWatch, an Internet publication that focuses on City Hall, and on his own blog, Box expresses himself cogently and authoritatively. On his website and in campaign literature he precisely lays out his four ideas to improve L.A.: connectivity of government departments and agencies, a comprehensive General Plan, realigning budget priorities and re-tooling the way the city interacts with its customers. He must work to bring that same clarity of thought to his verbal communication. It's not enough to have great ideas; one must be able to articulate them.

We think that's a minor flaw in an otherwise qualified candidate. Box started his long road to this race as a bicycle activist, a vocation which he came to as a result of a bicycling accident he had with a MTA bus. The resulting frustration with getting the governmental runaround politicized him and led him deep into community activism. He's worked with City Hall and neighborhood councils and the Mayor's Office to create a more bike-friendly city and is on the board of a number of civic groups.

Los Angeles needs some fresh leadership. That's why we strongly encourage voters to pick Stephen Box for CD 4.

Carry the momentum forward by going to the Box for CD 4 campaign web site.