Monday, July 18, 2011

"Old Boys" may be filling council seats again

With Janice Hahn moving to Congress, Jan Perry will be the only female member.

By Rick Orlov Staff Writer
The Daily Breeze

The Los Angeles City Council is close to becoming an Old Boys Club again.

Once Janice Hahn takes the oath of office for Congress on Tuesday, Jan Perry becomes the last woman on the council.

"It worries me," Perry said. "And, when I leave office in two years there is a chance this will be all males again." Perry, who is running for mayor in 2013 and is termed out from the council, is the last of a wave of women who, at one point, made up one-third of the 15-member council.

"I think women bring a different perspective," Perry said. "We are more hands-on and problem- solvers. We have to deal with family issues, raising the children and caring for aging parents. It is something most men don't deal with."

Perry said she has already begun trying to find a woman to replace her when she is termed out in 2013.

"I speak to different groups and tell them that I am here to help them, to mentor them," Perry said. "And I know there will be no shortage of men running for this seat."

The City Council was composed of all men until 1953, when Rosalind Wyman was elected to the 5th District seat and Harriett Davenport was appointed to finish the term of her late husband, Councilman Ed Davenport, in the 12th District. By 1997, five council members were women.

City Council President Eric Garcetti said the lack of women on the council is worrisome. "Women are more than 50percent of the city, and we will have only one on the council and that could be none after 2013," Garcetti said. "The City Council should reflect the city as a whole. To reflect that, we need more women serving."

Lulu Flores, president of the National Woman Political Caucus, said organizations such as hers need to do a better job recruiting women.

"In spite of looking for more women, it has been disappointing," Flores said. "We have tried to analyze it and ... part of it is the climate of politics. Women are becoming more and more successful in the business arena and a lot of them are turned off by politics.

"They don't want to subject themselves or their families to the time demands and being under the microscope that politics puts you under."

Flores said another concern is that not as many women are seeking the beginning jobs in politics that have served as a steppingstone.

Garcetti said he has been talking to different groups to try to persuade women to run for office.

But, he agreed, the nature of politics these days has turned many off.

"Look at the race Janice (Hahn) just ran and all the attacks, many of them sexist, against her," Garcetti said. "You have to be tough to go through that and a lot of women look at it and say it's not for them."

Debbie Walsh of the Center for the American Study of Women in Politics and spokeswoman for the 2012 Project, said the peak year for women was in 1992, when California elected Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and Congress saw 24 women elected.

"Since then, we've had stagnation," Walsh said. "There's been a flatlining of women at all levels. Part of it is the tenor and tone of politics, but also a view that things don't get done and they are better off in other areas."  READ MORE

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