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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Chris Essel self-destructs at S.O.H.A.

On Wednesday evening the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association held the last forum for the special election on September 22nd to fill the vacancy on the City Council in the 2nd district. All the candidates attended, and most of them had really been looking forward to this forum. Except Chris Essel. Essel really got hit from all sides tonight and things did not go very well for her.

After some very standard and routine opening statements, the forum got into what was the most exciting element of the entire election. Candidates were allowed to ask specific questions of their opponents -- and the way they delivered those questions was a subtle kind of scorching indictment of the other candidates behavior or character. Most of the candidates had been waiting for this moment to go after any perceived flaws or weaknesses in their rivals. Unfortunately for Chris Essel, because of her big money raising advantage, many of the candidates decided to target her. And again, unfortunately for Chris Essel, she didn't seem ready for it.

Let's get to the action...

Frank Sheftel - Tamar Galatzan : Frank discussed how Tamar is on the LAUSD Board and how the schools are closing and there are big problems at LAUSD. He asked how she could justify leaving. Tamar countered by saying she had brought resources and new computers to the schools. She also said she had helped take 6 closed schools and have 4 of them opened up to the idea of being charter schools.

Augusto Bisani - Paul Krekorian : Augusto asked Paul if he would run for City Council if the salary were only 80k per year. Paul said "Yes! And I hope voters would vote for me."

Tamar Galatzan - Chris Essel : Tamar talked about how much she had worked for the Valley in her job at LAUSD and how many forums and groups she had spoken to. Tamar then turned and shouted at Essel .."I have NEVER SEEN YOU at any of these community meetings!". She asked Essel to name any meetings she had been to prior to running for this office. Of course, Essel couldn't name any. It was a devastating blow. Tamar was basically calling Chris a phony and Chris didn't have an answer to counter the attack. Chris gave some generic answer "I'm a businesswoman. I lived in the Valley for thirty years".... blah blah blah... -- it didn't work. Essel had been badly wounded by this attack and never recovered.

Mary Benson - Tamar Galatzan : Mary Benson asked Tamar Galatzan if she would reimburse the City for causing another special election for her LAUSD seat. Tamar started answering about how she would prefer appointments to the seat to save money on elections, when suddenly a heckler in the crowd shouted something at her. She shouted the heckler down, saying "Don't interrupt me!" -- the heckler didn't disturb anyone again.

Pete Sanchez - Chris Essel : Pete talked about SB1818 and how Essel was previously for SB1818, but then at the Valley Village forum, she said it was "wrong." Chris answered by saying she never said she was in favor of SB 1818. She said she was working in the entertainment industry and trying to make things better there.

Paul Krekorian - Chris Essel : Paul was eager to go after Chris, but realized that Pete had just stolen his question, so he asked Chris to restate her answer in more detail. Paul pointed out that when Chris Essel was President of the CCA she had called SB1818 the "crowning achievement" of her group. Chris again gave some nonsense answer. "I was a neighborhood advocate" and "I repopulated my board with activists". When she was done, all you could hear was the sound of crickets.

Mary Benson - Chris Essel : Chris was clearly not happy when Mary Benson became the third straight candidate to go after her. Mary asked if Christine would support CD 2 and keep it all Valley if there were redistricting after the census in 2010. Essel said she saw "no reason to redistrict."

Luckily for Chris Essel the next question finally went to someone else. But Chris did something I didn't like. She stepped back from the table and stood about two feet behind everyone else. She was clearly angry at being attacked by all the other candidates and stopped smiling at or even looking at the crowd. (See the photo at the top of this story) Not good.

The other ugliness tonight happened between Paul Krekorian and Joe Essavi. (below)

Joe Essavi - Paul Krekorian : Joe Essavi directed his question at Paul Krekorian and decided to expose a weakness of Pauls. Paul had said at other previous forums he doesn't want to take a salary cut at City Council. Joe asked him if he would make the same pledge that Joe had made...to cut his own salary at City Council. From the 178K that the job pays, he would give 90K to Neighborhood Councils. Pauls response badly damaged his candidacy in this election. He was kind of smarmy and snotty in his response when he said "That's an impressive pledge, Joe...seeing as you have so much on the line... and you'll have such an opportunity to fulfill that pledge". Paul didn't say it in exact words, but he was being very petty and condescending. He was belittling Joe Essavi. Paul was basically calling him a loser and telling him he had no chance to win the election. The subtlety of his delivery was not lost on the crowd. There were gasps of shock from the audience. Sympathy votes will not help Joe Essavi win this election, but one thing was clear tonight. However many fans and supporters Paul Krekorian had when he walked in that room tonight... he had a few less when he left. To be quite honest, I think it was beneath the dignity of a State official to behave this way towards another candidate, one who had not made his question into a personal attack.

David Saltsburg/Zuma Dogg -Tamar Galatzan : David finally got his chance to confront Tamar. David had been burning for weeks after Tamars little LAUSD mailer fiasco. He got very specific about it and asked her if she had purposefully moved money over to her LAUSD officeholder account and used the money to send mailers, knowing that it was avoiding campaign rules. Before he could finish the question, he got cut off by moderator Richard Close. That made Zuma Dogg even more angry and he shouted out that "Richard is endorsing Tamar....that's why he won't let me finish my question!" I asked SOHA members about that later and they said it was simply a matter of being timed on a stopwatch. They said Richards feelings had nothing to do with it. (Anyway...no big deal). Tamar answered "No, I did not!" and that was the end of it. David never really "unleashed the DOGG" tonight. That's too bad. David looked like something was bothering him the whole night.

Chris Essel - Pete Sanchez : In a truly bewildering move, Chris Essel did not use her question to go after her main rivals Paul or Tamar, but instead lobbed a softball to Pete Sanchez. "How would you use your skills to stop development?" she asked him. Pete answered, but he didn't really have to, because the question was so non-threatening.


SOHA moderators asked the candidates written questions from the audience. As usual, some of the question writers had an axe to grind and just reading the question sometimes took longer than the 30 seconds the candidates had to answer it. Some choice quips...

Tamar Galatzan ( on the budget crisis)
"We need someone to say the Emperor has no clothes! We don't need any more sheep!"

Chris Essel (on growth)
"We would need to assess if we have the capacity to handle new growth."

Augusto Bisani showed some NIMBY tendencies when asked about the growth of the Westfield Mall.
"They are going to be parking on our streets," he said.

Frank Sheftel talked about how as Councilman he would stay in touch with the community. He compared his future network of support to the Verizon commercials.
"I'm going to have all the Neighborhood Councils behind me," he predicted.

On the question about Prop 13, both David Saltsburg and Michael McCue felt it was best to talk about things they could control at City Council... not things they couldn't.


SOHA moderators had a great idea to ask rapid fire questions and have the candidates hold up a card : Green with a"YES" on it or red with a "NO".

Michael McCue absolutely destroyed every other candidate during the lightning round of questions at SOHA. Take a look at photo above. Michael often had his card up before the question was finished. In fact, on a question about rate-payer advocacy, I think the moderator hadn't said five words when McCue answered. He was clearly way ahead of the field here. Tamar and Paul struggled, because being elected officials, they didn't want to get boxed into a corner. Paul kept asking for qualifiers and quantifiers..."Which one?"..."What part of that do you mean..?" He was terrible. Luckily for Paul, someone else bungled the lightning round even worse than he did. Yep..you guessed it. Chris Essel.

On only the second or third question of the lightning round, Essel may have sealed her fate in this election. When the moderators asked if the candidates were in favor of the expansion of the Westfield Mall, all the other candidates held up the "NO" card. Chris was the only "YES".

It is difficult for me to explain the looks of absolute horror on the faces of many members of the crowd who saw this happen. Let's just say that Chris didn't gain a lot of votes tonight. Chris even held up her "NO" card upside down on several questions. After a performance like this, I just don't see any possible way she can win this election. Her advisors - who must have been pulling their hair out - clearly are overpaid, judging from their results.


Chris Essel was very frustrated by the end of the forum and used her time to complain. "I don't like all these "Gotcha" questions.." she said.

(Wow. Unbelievable. She is running for office and thinks policy questions are unfair.
She knew she was one of the frontrunners and should have predicted every attack that came her way.)

Frank Sheftel saved his best weapon for last. He revealed that Joel Wachs had donated money to his campaign. It brought a cascade of applause. There was a lot of gray hair in that room and many of them remembered the good old days of strong leadership in Los Angeles - names like Tom Bradley and Joel Wachs - instead of the bumbling incompetents we have in power now.


In a fragmented election like this, it is crucial to destroy your enemies, yet maintain a tight defense against attacks. Tamar destroyed Chris Essel tonight. She also kept up a tough wall of defense against those who attacked her. Frank Sheftel and Michael McCue did very well tonight, but did not achieve the double objective of attack and defense like Tamar did.

All the candidates for talking with me during this campaign. Also, thanks to David Hernandez and his wife Debi for saving me a prime seat at this event. A big Mayor Sam "hello" to Alan Skobin, Ellen Vukovich, Nancy Kaleel, Louis Pugliese, Noel Weiss, David Vahedi, and many, many of the other great people I talked to tonight.


Anonymous Anonymous said:

Same assholes at every forum; same old same old.


Essel 30%
Galatzan 25%
Krekorian 24%
Everyone else except Zuma Dogg 21%
Zuma Dogg 0000.1%

September 17, 2009 7:00 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

"We would need to assess if we have the capacity to handle new growth."

Right, because bursting pipes, sinkholes, blackouts, clogged freeways, and a fleeing middle class aren't evidence enough we're overdeveloping this city to death.

September 17, 2009 7:00 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Nice work, Phil!

September 17, 2009 7:03 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I am so ready for September 23; I am praying for an out and out victory for one of them on September 22.

I no longer care which one; anyone will do to end this misery.

Well, anyone but Schmaltzenburger. I'll send him taxi fare to get back to from whence he came, fourth rock down from Zuma Orchids.

September 17, 2009 7:22 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Did anyone ask Krekorian WHY he opposes the Westfield expansion? He has no idea why - he's just repeating what's popular to score points. TYpical duplicitous, arrogant (his reply to Essavi), entitled career politician running from his Sacramento gig (where he's been a complete failure).

That said, Essel would be the worst possible outcome.

September 17, 2009 7:29 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Essel had a bad night but she still easily makes the runoff over Tamar, who has barely run a campaign.

September 17, 2009 8:04 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:


With less than a week before the special election for the 2nd District seat on the Los Angeles City Council, Assemblyman Paul Krekorian is getting a boost from his colleague, Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar).

The Fuentes association may not be helpful to Krekorian with some voters in the northern reaches of the district. Fuentes wrote a proposal, which was ultimately shelved, that would have allowed MWH Development Corp. to build 229 homes on the Verdugo Hills Golf Course despite the objections of neighborhood activists and Los Angeles city officials.

September 17, 2009 8:07 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I'm a CD 5 voter who lives in Sherman Oaks and, to be honest, I actually felt bad for Essel. Except for a couple of questions, I thought she handled the all out assault on her reasonably well.

This might be a blood sport for the political insiders and bloggers, but to average everyday citizens, you'd be surprised how much empathy is out there for people in situations like that.

I thought she was above the fray in spite of the attacks and it was pretty classy of her (the only one of the big three to recognize one of the other candidates) to ask a positive question of Sanchez and not strike back at Tamar or Paul who attacked her.

I thought the one who came off most unlikable was Krekorian. He seemed like a carbon copy of Jack Weiss with that slick and arrogrant--almost elitest manner. He's sooooo much smarter than everyone else. Trust me, I've seen enough of that over the past 8 years to last a lifetime. CD2 voters--you don't want that. He'll be kissing up to the Mayor and running for City Attorney before you know it.

If anyone "self destructed" it was him.

By the way, a lot of people in Sherman Oaks don't care about the Westfield issue other than the NIMBY's. We like the Fashion Square mall and anything that improves it is great for most of us--that goes for Studio City, Encino, North Hollywood, Valley village and Van Nuys who use the mall.

A lot of people didn't like the Sherman Oaks Galleria, but that's doing pretty well and the traffic is no worse than it was before.

September 17, 2009 8:10 AM  

Blogger Zuma Dogg said:

This comment has been removed by the author.

September 17, 2009 8:14 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Queen Essel doesn't spend much time in the village. She needs a Royal Commission to tell her if LA is buckling. … A commission, of course, stacked with business buddies and collectivist ideologues, rounded out by a few beard-scratching professors and maybe even Jack Kyser to complete the insult.

September 17, 2009 8:42 AM  

Blogger Phil Jennerjahn said:

David/Zuma Dogg

David, you were off at the forum last night. You just weren't as good as you have been on other nights. Trust me...I WISH you were in first place in this election.. but you are not because the others are outspending you. Essel might even release a TV ad.

I also wish my other friends in this race, Joe Essavi and Frank Sheftel, were up at the top...but I don't see that right now. I think Paul, Chris and Tamar are the top 3. I don't think some of the other grassroots candidates are making enough of an effort.

And no...David...I never said I would win the Mayor's Race. I jumped into it with only 100 days left, and I had a job I had to go to work at for half of those days. I had hoped to finish in the top four and set myself up for the future. It didn't happen. (But you are correct...I didn't think you would get 500 votes and you certainly surprised everyone by finishing in fourth place!)

About Tamar...I'm just being fair. I'm not saying she's the best. If you thought she lied about Measure B, then you should have said that. Her thing with the LAUSD money for the fliers is something that should be discussed.

She can make excuses by saying she didn't mention the election, but the excuses are weak...those mailers showed up at exactly the same time as the vote by mail ballots. It was no accident.

But you have been bashing her non-stop on your blog. Isn't that enough? You also have Essel and Krekorian to worry about.

Go get some rest.

Try to get on Kevin James and Doug McIntyre again before Tuesday.

September 17, 2009 8:58 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Hey Zuma Dork!!!

Tamar lied?

Welcome to campaign politics.

September 17, 2009 9:00 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Now we know why Joe Barrett and his team didn't endorse Mary.

She came out as a Republican.

September 17, 2009 9:06 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I attended the S.O.H.A. forun last nite.
Essel is an absolute buffoon. I had thought she may not be familiar with the issues, but she is smart. What a disappointment. She is an idiot. And she wants to represent me in the lions`den?

September 17, 2009 9:07 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I keep reading your bashing of Chris Essel. You obviously don't know her at all. She wants this job simply to help the community, not to further her political career. She is not a seasoned politician and it shows. She has no further political aspirations than to serve this community for whatever period they let her. You can't say that about any other lead candidate. I think she is the obvious choice!

September 17, 2009 9:10 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

9:06 AM

If that is true then I hope Galatzan wins and builds 600 homes anchored by Home Depot on the stupid golf course. Thats so petty especially considering Higsby endorsed a Democrat.

September 17, 2009 9:22 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I agree with 8:10. I went to the forum on MOnday and last night. Essel did much better Monday, but some of the people walking out last night said they were voting for her and, in particular, mentioned not liking Krekorian's comments. They thought Tamar should stay on the school board. It was interesting because they seem to like Tamar and for that reason alone want her to stay on the school board and as their neighborhood prosecutor. Weird, huh?

September 17, 2009 9:41 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

9;10AM. How can you say "She(Essel) wants this job simply to help the community" with a straight face? The community she does not live in, does not know its issues, and cannot understand its needs? It`s OK to spin, but at least with some credence. Anyone but Chris.

September 17, 2009 9:43 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Why aren't you posting the great story about the CD2 race in LAweekly.com It says Mayor Sam is a great place to get info along with many others.

September 17, 2009 9:43 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Its Krekorian in a walk.

This is from CD2 voter, his campaign has been every where for months.

The other two have not called me once, while Paul's campaign has called me and knocked on my door twice.

September 17, 2009 9:51 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

After the election i predict Zuma will be completely alienated. Look at the way he talks to people. he scolds & insults people and then says "but I still like you" WTF???

With friends like Zuma, who needs enemies?

September 17, 2009 9:53 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Wake up people! Essel would at least be a wild card down at City Council, she would be free to cast sane votes on the important budget issues etc. because she's older and won't need to keep running for office.

As opposed to Tamar and Paul who will just do the same old same old to advance a political career.

September 17, 2009 9:56 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:


September 17, 2009 9:58 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

9:51 must be Armenian

September 17, 2009 10:03 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I have to hand it to Essel. She is not your typical candidate. She is a business woman with some sense, manners and thought. I've never seen someone like her run, it's actually a bit of fresh air. She has had a successful run in the biz, but now she is running for office. She could have easily gone into another private gig, but she chose to run for office because she sees that she can actually make a difference, but these same old people attacking her and not talking to her personally is really embarrassing for our district. Give the woman a chance! Geez! We gave Wendy one. Unlike Tamar who will weasel you into liking her and then backstab you the next. Yes, I like Tamar, actually I think she is great, but ON THE SCHOOL BOARD! I voted for her to take care of the schools and now she is turning around to run for City Council. That's wrong and to be frank, really insulting to me as a voter. She is running for office at the risk of our children. It is shameful. Okay, great, a couple computers, but really? Being on the schoolboard is one of the most important jobs in this city and if she doesn't see that SHAME on her! Keep Tamar on the school board, our kids need it!

September 17, 2009 10:04 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

9:56am I totally agree. Way to put it out there.

September 17, 2009 10:10 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Galatzan for School Board!
Krekorian for Assembly!
Essel for City Council!

They will all have jobs and everyone lives happily ever after.

The End

September 17, 2009 10:11 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Yes ,Essel will make a difference alright. You won't recognize CD-2 after she finishes replacing houses with four-story apartment buildings.

Let's elect Essel and eradicate those pesky middle class homeowners from Los Angeles, once and for all!

September 17, 2009 10:12 AM  

Anonymous Paul Hatfield said:

If people are going to criticize Tamar for not finishing her LAUSD term, you have to go doubly hard on Krekorian. The ink is barely dry on his re-election.

Phil, thank you for the coverage on this forum. I was not able to attend.

September 17, 2009 10:14 AM  

Blogger Hummingbird said:

Man. There are a lot of Essel shills here. Most of these posts are not worth the read because they are clearly shills.

By the way, I am on the "Joe's team" which is NOT a team at all. Just some folks who feel similarly and want the best for our CD2. I am endorsing Tamar.


I have letters from LAUSD staff saying Tamar is the voice of reason and sanity. She can do more good for them as council member and that should be reason enough to push this move for her. It will be worth it to LAUSD to have help from above.

September 17, 2009 10:22 AM  

Blogger Hummingbird said:

7:00AM - RIGHT ON!

September 17, 2009 10:23 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Amen, Hatfield. Where's Higby??

September 17, 2009 10:24 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

With due respect, I think Essavi misses the point. This isn't about the salary for Paul. Paul Krekorian is running because if you play your cards right a seat on the LA City Council is solid gold. It opens doors to power and wealth far beyond what an Assembly seat can bring you. (This also explains his attitude toward Essavi.)

September 17, 2009 11:05 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I was there. Essel did fine. Tamar is hiding in plain sight as the slimiest politician of the bunch. She'd be a tyrant as Councilmember.

September 17, 2009 11:58 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

As the SOHA forum concluded, a group of constituents began approaching the candidates for informal Q&A. Suddenly, three armed men in trench coats burst through the rear exit and rushed Essel from the building into the back of a stretch DTS. As the the Northstar V8 roared south on Coldwater toward Mulholland, deeper into the darkness of the hills, an earsplitting laugh pierced the evening air. "Suckers!"

September 17, 2009 12:24 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Jennerjahn & Hatfield strike again! Someday maybe they'll write about what really happened and not through their distorted lens. Essavi's grandstanding about the salary is just that, intended to be an audience pleaser as some people want to punish the city council members. One-half his salary to neighborhood councils?? Ha, ha. Hell, not many spend or manage well the money they have now. Paul's comments were right on. Hardly a promise Essavi will have to keep. And damage to his candidacy? Maybe in your dreams. Been visiting Sheftel's shop? and I don't mean his candy shop. Get real. How about asking something that voters really care about in CD2, Essavi. Regarding Paul's question to Essel, you left out the most important part. He asked that if she didn't support many of the CCA's position, including SB1818, then why are they supporting her by holding a downtown fundraiser this week? Paul was clearly popular based on the audience response, as was Tamar. You would have heard a pin drop after Essel spoke and a smattering of applause for the others. Tamar is the Palin of this race. Sounds good to her base, but doesn't measure up in the larger picture.

September 17, 2009 12:47 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Look! Krekorian's chief hack finally woke up. Good morning, precious. I made your favorite; scrambled eggs and sourdough. Would you like some orange juice?

September 17, 2009 1:02 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Paul's spinner 12:27 is going to have to do a LOT better than call Tamar "the Palin of this race."

You kidding? She's the smartest of the bunch, well-educated, multi-tasking lawyer, Board member, mom, community activist. No one ever accused her of sounding stupid when she opens her mouth like Palin, whose greatest memorable moment was as going along with an "isn't she dumb" parody of herself.

Tamar also shows she can sit next to the likes of Zuma Dogg without holding her nose, at least not publicly. While understandably, Essel and Krekorian are more like "How did I sink this low compared to how I'm normally treated?" much of the time. There IS a weird recent phenom where the fact that a few same old people attend these forums, listen to talkshows and show up at council, blog (all anti- Villaraigosa and comadres), means it's descended to a discount circus.

Having said that, I think the negative tone of this race and the lobs against other candidates in general on this blog and elsewhere are not helpful. It's not a crime to have devoted your life to public service, and the salary and staff, car, often touted here as a big deal is nothing to a well-educated lawyer, compared to salaries in the outside world. It IS a lot for the Essavi's, Bensons, never mind the homeless dogg. Krekorian is right that it's easy for them to talk: they could also to offer to give up Air Force One.

September 17, 2009 1:30 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

David looked like something was bothering him the whole night.....What kind of reporting is this? who wrote this, a golf announcer. Get real...someone really likes Zuma Dog and its sad.

September 17, 2009 1:47 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

130PM=jim bickert

September 17, 2009 2:20 PM  

Anonymous g said:


September 17, 2009 5:14 PM  

Anonymous Paul Hatfield said:

Phil, regarding 1247, I don't know if I should be offended at being lumped in with you or the other way around.

September 17, 2009 7:16 PM  

Blogger Phil Jennerjahn said:


12:47 can watch the video now of Paul being booed at SOHA and tell me how popular he is.

September 17, 2009 8:05 PM  

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