Wednesday, November 12, 2014

CD-5 E-Newsletter: "Saluting Zev" (Yaroslavsky)

L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has been a remarkable paradigm of effective and dedicated leadership serving Los Angeles, but he is now in the home stretch of completing his final term as a Los Angeles County Supervisor, which is why Councilmember Koretz and the City Council, joined by Mayor Garcetti, City Attorney Feuer and City Controller Galperin, honored the Supervisor recently. It was a special treat seeing the three past and present Fifth District Councilmembers together: Yaroslavsky, Feuer, and Koretz. The ceremony took place in Los Angeles City Hall – the very place where Yaroslavsky, then councilmember
representing the 5th District, first held elected office.

During a career in public life spanning nearly four decades, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has been at the forefront of our biggest issues, from transportation to the environment to health care to public safety to the arts. He has been a pioneering advocate for the region’s homeless population and has played a key role in efforts to reform the county’s law enforcement agencies.

He was born December 21, 1948 in Los Angeles, the son of David and Minna Yaroslavsky, Jewish immigrants from Russia. He attended Melrose Avenue Elementary School, Bancroft Junior High School and Fairfax High School before earning an M.A. in British Imperial History and a B.A. in Economics and History, both from UCLA. At UCLA, he became renowned as a champion for the rights, liberty, security and well-being of oppressed Soviet Jewry.

While a student at UCLA, he would meet Barbara Edelston, whom he would later marry, and she, too, has led an exemplary career in public service. Barbara and Zev Yaroslavsky have two children, David and Mina, and two granddaughters, with a grandson on the way.

Zev Yaroslavsky was first elected to office in 1975, stunning the political establishment by winning the Los Angeles City Council’s 5th District seat at the age of 26. On the council, Yaroslavsky honed his fiscal skills as chairman of the Finance Committee and earned a reputation as being unafraid to tackle controversial issues, including the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of excessive force and its improper spying on law-abiding residents. He co-authored two landmark initiatives with his colleague, the late Councilman Marvin Braude: Proposition U, which cut in half the size of new commercial developments near residential neighborhoods, and Proposition O, which banned oil drilling along the city’s shoreline. As the Los Angeles Times said of his City Hall tenure: “Yaroslavsky was more often than not a dominant player in virtually every municipal initiative of note since he joined the City Council.”

In 1994, Yaroslavsky was elected to the five-member Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, representing the western part of the county and a constituency of two million people. He is now serving his fifth term as the board’s Third District representative. Because of term limits, he will leave office at the close of 2014.  As a member of the Board of Supervisors, Yaroslavsky quickly emerged as a leader on fiscal, health care, transportation, cultural and environmental matters. He authored the 1996 Proposition ‘A’ park bond, which resulted in the preservation of a broad swath of rural open space and the development of urban parks throughout the county. He also authored the 2002 Proposition ‘B’ trauma tax, approved by more than 73% of county voters – a measure credited with saving two public hospitals from potential closure and keeping the county’s emergency services intact.

Yaroslavsky was the driving force behind the hugely successful Orange Line busway across the San Fernando Valley, which opened in 2005 to record ridership, and he pushed hard for creation of the new light rail Expo Line, which, when completed by 2015, will travel to Santa Monica from Downtown Los Angeles. (The current terminus is in Culver City.) At the same time, Yaroslavsky, a member of the Metro board of directors, has been among those leading the drive to bring a subway – the Purple Line – to the Westside.

In the area of social and human services, Yaroslavsky has launched a series of groundbreaking initiatives that have measurably improved life for individuals and families on the margins of society. For example, he has been bringing innovative school-based health clinics to largely working-class neighborhoods of the San Fernando Valley, where many residents are living below the poverty line and rarely seek medical attention. One of those is based on the Sun Valley Middle School campus, while two more are being constructed at Monroe and San Fernando high schools. Yaroslavsky also has been credited with helping to restore the lives of the region’s chronically homeless through his widely praised Project 50 program and its spinoffs, which have provided permanent supportive housing for hundreds of people who’ve been identified as otherwise most likely to die on the streets.

In the arts, Yaroslavsky championed efforts to rebuild and modernize the world famous Hollywood Bowl amphitheater and was instrumental in the development of architect Frank Gehry’s iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also helped fund major investments in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History and the Valley Performing Arts Center.

More recently, Yaroslavsky is credited with playing a leading role in the sweeping reforms now underway in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. In 2011, he authored the board’s motion to create the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence, a blue-ribbon panel that investigated alleged deputy brutality in the nation’s biggest county lockup and suggested dozens of measures to restore the department’s integrity.

Beyond his work with Los Angeles County, Yaroslavsky has long been associated with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), a non-governmental organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., that promotes the development of democratic institutions in burgeoning democracies. He has monitored four elections for NDI: Romania (1990), Mexico (2000), Ukraine (2004) and Nigeria (2011). He has conducted seminars on democratic institution-building in Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and Bosnia/Herzegovina.

At the City Hall ceremony which was held on October 31, the Supervisor and Barbara Yaroslavsky were joined by some of his staff, many of whom have been on his staff going back to when he was on the City Council.   After all the speakers were done praising him and thanking him for his leadership and service, Supervisor Yaroslavsky talked briefly, with gruff humility and grace.  The City thanks him for what he has meant and done.