Meeting face-to-face for the first time in a debate setting, the two candidates for the Los Angeles City Council’s 11th District seat approached the issues facing the district in manners as distinct from one another as the communities the candidates are seeking to represent.

Eight days prior to the Tuesday, March 3rd municipal election, incumbent City Councilman Bill Rosendahl and challenger Harry “Craig” Wilson met at the Mar Vista Recreation Center to present their views on the various challenges in the 11th District communities.

Rosendahl, who has represented the coastal district for the past four years, noted prior to the event that other incumbent candidates have chosen not to take part in debates but he encouraged having a democratic process.

“I have always believed in democracy and in empowering people through an open and transparent process,” the councilman wrote in a letter to constituents.

Wilson, a 15-year Westchester resident and hydrographer with the city Department of Water and Power, said he looked forward to the opportunity to face the incumbent councilman and discuss his views of city issues before the public. Each candidate was posed questions related to issues in various district communities, including those within the Argonaut coverage area, as well as Pacific Palisades and Brentwood.

From the outset of the event, the difference in the candidates’ vision for the district was evident in how they chose to respond.

During the opening statements, Wilson referred to his support of Jamiel’s Law —a proposed measure named after a high school athlete who police say was allegedly killed by an illegal alien — and also mentioned Danielle Bologna, whose family members were allegedly killed by an illegal immigrant. Jamiel’s Law, which failed to be placed on the ballot, would have modified a Los Angeles police policy that prohibits officers from contacting persons solely to determine if they are illegal immigrants.

In contrast, Rosendahl spoke about a number of achievements during his time on the council, from opening a transitional living facility for Iraq War veterans in Del Rey to the reinterment of Native American remains in Playa Vista, and said he wanted to continue serving the distinct communities.

In addressing district services for homeless veterans, Rosendahl said he believed “we have not done enough,” one of the councilman’s numerous positions to which Wilson agreed. Early in the debate, Wilson related some of his answers back to issues such as taxes and illegal immigration. When asked a question regarding the budget crisis, Wilson responded, “Let every day be a day without an illegal immigrant.”

In some cases, the challenger chose to take a question away from its intended topic.

Asked about the loss of police officers in communities such as Pacific Palisades to accommodate two new stations outside the district, Rosendahl spoke of his support of Chief William Bratton’s plan to have 10,000 police officers.

“We on the Westside have lost officers to other parts of the city because violent crime takes precedence,” Rosendahl said.

But when asked the same question, Wilson referred to its connection to Palisades and spoke of the movie “Eye for an Eye,” which he said was set there and told of a mother whose daughter was murdered.

Addressing how to respond to the proliferation of billboards in Los Angeles, the challenger said, “If people in the area don’t want the signs, we tear them down.” Rosendahl said the 11th and 5th council districts “are under assault” by such signs, and he spoke of efforts by the communities to catalogue all the billboards in the area, leading to a three-month moratorium.

Wilson said he believed the advisory Neighborhood Councils “are ignored by City Hall,” while Rosendahl said he has embraced the eight councils in his district and listens to their concerns.

“I see Neighborhood Councils as a partner with electorates who believe in grassroots democracy,” the councilman said.

A contentious issue that has drawn much attention to the Venice community is the proposed restriction of overnight parking. Rosendahl noted that he has supported allowing residents to have the same rights as other areas to request overnight parking districts. He has also proposed to amend a city law that he says essentially criminalizes sleeping in a vehicle.

On the same topic, Wilson said he agreed with much of the councilman’s proposal, but later spoke of RVs saying, “I don’t want a tepee with wheels in front of my house.”

Offering proposed transportation solutions to ease Westside congestion, Rosendahl mentioned rapid buses, synchronized lights and the extension of the Metro Green Line to the airport, while Wilson talked of a monorail. Having referrred to Los Angeles as a “Third World city,” Wilson said the 11th District is a “really nice place to live.” Rosendahl said residents of the district feel blessed to live there.

One of the questions posed to the candidates related to the Playa Vista development. Rosendahl said he has asked for an extension on the environmental impact report review for Phase Two to allow residents more time. Wilson vowed to respond to Playa Vista’s desires.

“If they want a doughnut shop, they get a doughnut shop,” the challenger said. “I believe I’m going to get a lot of votes from Playa Vista.”

One issue that appeared to draw similar positions from the two candidates was the operation of Santa Monica Airport, where many Mar Vista and Santa Monica residents have called for banning the fastest type jets due to safety and pollution concerns. After speaking of his experience at airports as a Marine, Wilson said he does not support the small Santa Monica Airport. Rosendahl discussed health issues with jet pollution and believes the airport should be shut down.

With the campaign in its final week, the two candidates reaffirmed in their own way why voters should choose them to represent the 11th District on the City Council.

Wilson again referred to Jamiel’s Law, saying he hopes he can prevent the next Jamiel Shaw from dying, while Rosendahl said he thrives on serving the people.

“I love people,” the councilman said of his qualifications as a leader. “You’ve got to love people, you’ve got to believe in democracy and you’ve got to believe you can make a difference.”

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