By CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA | Reporter
When The Highlands, one of the most politically active neighborhoods in Pacific Palisades, suddenly had a vacant seat for an area representative on the Pacific Palisades Community Council, Adam Handler and Steve Cron—the two candidates running for the position—knew it would be no easy task to fill.
Several weeks into the elections, that theory has proven true as candidates have endured a slew of criticisms and accusations, calling their entire Palisadian histories into question, and casting a dark cloud of uncertainty over their Area 2 campaigns.
For Handler, the criticism comes with the territory. In hopes of quashing the rumors and bad blood that had brewed over inflammatory posts on social media, the long-time lawyer held a meeting at a local Starbucks and invited his critics and supporters to talk.
“The number of people who showed up specifically to talk about the issues were probably about half a dozen,” Handler said in his first interview with the Palisadian-Post. He said a majority of those he spoke to were just passersby, morning coffee drinkers and a few puppies.
“I was surprised, however, that [people] were willing to say these things [online], but they weren’t willing to spend the time to come down and sit and talk to me in person,” he said. And while wisecracks at his name and accusations of internet trolling do not phase him, Handler has seen a trend in common misconceptions.
“I think there are a number of people that are saying I would represent just the Summit,” Handler said, clarifying that his decision to run was fueled by his intent to address Highlands issues outside the scope of the Summit HOA. “The number two [misconception] is that I’m pro-eldercare facility.”
He believes there are credible issues with the design of the facility currently involved in a lawsuit between the city of Los Angeles and the Pacific Palisades Residents Association. He questions whether such an isolated lot is the best place to put elderly people that might require medical attention, and that’s without getting into the Coastal Act debate.
Handler wants to be a new voice with new ideas on a council with no term limits and repeating faces. “How representative is it of the community if people have been serving for so long and there’s no new people?” he asked. If Cron wins, Handler said, it will just be a repeating cycle of electing “one of the crowd.”
Meanwhile, Cron has been hard at work scraping “Joey Mudd” off of his shoes after he found himself a target of a fake social media account that was posting false and inflammatory comments.
“I’ve spent a lot of the past week-and-a-half dealing with the whole Joey Mudd situation,” Cron said. “I think it should be investigated. There are ways [the election committee] can go about to find out who [posted the false information]. If it’s proven who that person is, and if they are in a position of some public entity, I think he or she should immediately resign.”
Cron said he now knows why most PPCC elections go uncontested: “Because it’s going to get dirty and ugly and name calling. Baseless accusations. I think that’s exactly why people don’t run, and so I think the council—rather than advertising more, rather than trying to get people to run—they should make sure that things are done on the up and up so that people don’t feel that if they run for office that they’re going to get slandered and libeled.”
But Cron does not regret running, and is still focusing all of his time and efforts on getting elected. He doesn’t believe Handler is behind the scandal, but thinks someone prominent in the community was in his opponent’s corner.
“I guess if you run for office you have to have thick skin,” said Cron, who was shocked that such “dirty politics” could happen in a small town. The tricks have not distracted him from his ultimate goal: being the voice of unheard Highlands residents and finding solutions that benefit everybody. He wants to make local government both in The Highlands and on PPCC more transparent and more interesting, while getting more people involved.
Regardless of outcome, Cron has found the silver lining in a small town election that won’t soon be forgotten.
“I think I’m the perfect combination of experienced, and yet new,” he said. “I’m not attached to any particular individuals … One of the best things about the Mudd scandal, is people came out and said ‘No, that’s not who Steve is.’”
Voting is open at pacpalicc.org until Aug. 30 at 9 p.m.