In a historic moment for the residents of Los Angeles City Council District 4, the Los Feliz Improvement Association organized a crucial Candidate Forum at the Autrey Museum of the American West on Thursday, January 25. This event marked the first time all three candidates vying for the council seat participated in a debate or candidate forum concurrently.
The auditorium at the Autrey Museum buzzed with anticipation as residents eagerly awaited the opportunity to hear from the contenders: Levon “Lev” Baronian, a neighborhood council member and NASA award-winning engineer; Nithya Raman, the incumbent; and Ethan Weaver, a deputy city attorney. Moderated by Frank Stoltze, LAist/KPCC Civics & Democracy Correspondent, and with Phil Leirness, from the Los Angeles Breakfast Club, serving as the master of ceremonies, Baronian’s inclusion in the forum marked a significant departure from the previous debate held by the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce, where he was arbitrarily excluded, sparking controversy.
During the forum, Nithya Raman asserted that she had attempted to ensure Levon Baronian’s participation in the previous debate, shedding light on the behind-the-scenes efforts to promote inclusivity in the electoral process. In contrast, Ethan Weaver remained notably quiet on the topic, further fueling speculation among attendees that it may have been his supporters who lobbied for Baronian’s exclusion from the stage.
Throughout the night, it became increasingly clear why his opponents would want to avoid having to be on stage with Levon. Baronian, in his distinctive style, presented himself as a unique candidate compared to his opponents. He emphasized his commitment to representing constituents over special interests, positioning himself as a voice of the people amidst a landscape dominated by conflicting interests that leave out the interests of everyday constituents.
The forum began following a mingle hour, allowing attendees to interact with the candidates and discuss pressing issues facing the district. As the candidates took to the stage, the packed auditorium reflected the keen interest of residents in the future of their community.
Throughout the forum, candidates fielded questions on a wide range of topics, including housing affordability, public safety, and infrastructure development. Each contender presented their vision for the district, outlining strategies to address key concerns and improve the quality of life for residents.
However, it was Levon Baronian who stood out to many attendees, with his impassioned advocacy for community-focused governance resonating strongly with the audience. His emphasis on prioritizing constituents’ needs over entrenched interests struck a chord in a district grappling with complex challenges and competing priorities.
As the forum drew to a close, residents were left with much to consider as they weigh their choices in the upcoming election. The Los Feliz Improvement Association’s initiative to host this landmark event provided voters with a valuable opportunity to engage directly with the candidates and assess their suitability to represent the district’s interests on the City Council.
As the campaign progresses, it remains to be seen how the insights gleaned from this forum will shape the electoral landscape. However, one thing is clear: Levon Baronian’s performance has left a lasting impression, positioning him as a formidable contender in the race for City Council District 4.