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Former Santa Monica Council Member Tony Vazquez Hopes to Regain Seat

 

By Jorge Casuso

July 13, 2012 -- More than two decades after becoming the only Latino elected to the Santa Monica City Council, Tony Vazquez will seek to regain the seat the lost in 1994, The Lookout has learned.

Vazquez -- who pushed for jobs for local Latino youth and was an advocate for homeless rights when he was on the dais -- said he has long been urged to run again but decided to wait until an incumbent stepped down.

Mayor Richard Bloom, who will be in a runoff for State Assembly, will not run for re-election in the November 6 race for four council seats, and Council member Bobby Shriver also is not expected to seek re-election.

"They're telling me go for it, brother," Vazquez said of his supporters. "Several have been begging for me to run for the last ten years, and I've been putting it off. But there hasn't been an open seat" with every incumbent running since 2000.

Vazquez -- who successfully lobbied to place Latino youth in jobs at City Hall -- said he would lobby to include local hiring when the City negotiates Development Agreements (DA) for new projects.

"I think the real key for me is to address some of the youth issues through employment," Vazquez said. "With all these developments going on in the City we should have our youth employed already."

Local hiring, Vazquez said, also would help alleviate parking congestion, adding that it sometimes takes him longer to cross Santa Monica from his Sunset Park home than it does to get to Downtown LA. "The traffic is unbelievable," he said.

The problem lies with the imbalance between jobs and housing, an issue that he said would be central to his campaign.

Vazquez also would like to see smaller projects, noting that there is a large number of major developments being proposed in the City.

"We need to scale back some of the development and make it more reasonable," he said.

After becoming the first Latino elected to the City Council in 1990, Vazquez lost his council seat after the police union targeted him in a hard-hitting campaign ad that depicted him as a friend of criminals, despite Vazquez's vote in 1992 to add 20 new officers to the police force.

The campaign angered both backers of the liberal Democrat (who denounced the police union for using "attack-dog tactics") to opponents (who charged that the union had stooped to "wallow in the gutter to defame a candidate").

The ad, which featured a cartoon of the council member, targeted Vazquez for his voting record, which included opposing a curfew for teenagers he said would lead to discrimination.

But Vazquez said the union has changed over the past 20 years and that former Police Chief Tim Jackman was one of those who urged him to run.

"It's a whole new (union) leadership," Vazquez said. "They're a little more open."

Vazquez, who is once again seeking the endorsement of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR), will likely find himself in a hotly contested race even if Bloom and Shriver don't seek re-election.

Other challengers include Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer; attorney and former Lookout columnist Frank Gruber; education advocate Shari Davis, and community activist Jerry Rubin.

Incumbents Gleam Davis and Terry O'Day also have announced that they would seek re-election.

Vazquez noted that he has more experience than any of the other candidates, including the two incumbents.

"Neither of the two (incumbent) candidates has served a full term," Vazquez said. "I've served longer. I'm the real incumbent."

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