Friday, December 09, 2005

Marvin Braude, Distinguished L.A. City Councilman, Dies

There is sadness today at the news of the death Wednesday, Dec. 7, of one of the great, independent and courageous Los Angeles City Council members, Marvin Braude, at the age of 85.

Braude, who represented the West Side in the Council, from 1965 until 1997, before term limits sapped many political institutions of much of their vitality, was a noted environmentalist, among those most responsible for the creation of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and the Venice beach bikeway. He was also known for his long and ultimately successful resistance to oil drilling in the Pacific Palisades.

Braude, a vegetarian, died in Rancho Mirage of pneumonia that developed after he broke his leg during a Thanksgiving visit to the Coachella Valley. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at the University Synagogue in Brentwood. Earlier this year, Braude's wife, Marjorie, a psychiatrist, died at the age of 80. The couple had two daughters and two grandchildren.

Los Angeles owes to the Braudes' honeymoon in Yosemite in 1948 and their admiration of the mountains there a decision by the couple to move to California from his native Chicago in 1951.

In an excellent obituary in the L.A. Times this morning by Steve Hymon and Patrick McGreevy, Braude is aptly described as an unconventional politician who was not a gladhander, did not enjoy and seldom attended Chamber of Commerce events, a man known for his idiosyncrasies, such as once jumping into a car at City Hall that looked like his and driving off. He ordered polyester suits from Sears and Roebuck and frequently biked with his wife from their home in Brentwood to the Pacific.

A fragile man, Braude long suffered from low blood pressure and often required a swim to rouse himself in the morning, recalled his onetime Council deputy, Anton Calleia.

But Braude suited his district so well that in four of his eight successful election bids, he ran unopposed.

The great majority of his constituents recognized him as a man who could be depended upon to always strive for the beauty of life in Los Angeles and to vote his conscience.

As soon as he was elected for the first time, Braude launched his Council service by forcefully and successfully fighting off a proposal by then-Mayor Sam Yorty, who had few of his sensitivities, to take acreage from the heart of Elysian Park to build a convention center. He also launched an investigation of corruption in the municipal Commission of Parks and Recreation that resulted in the felony conviction of one of the commissioners.

As the Times obituary notes, it took many years before Braude was able to cobble together Council majorities for such projects as a smoking ban in public places, and some fights, such as banning billboards and gun control, he never won. But he always kept trying, year by year, winning colleagues over by persistent arguments.

Calleia recalled Friday how, when he and Charlie Brittain were Council deputies, "Marvin used to drive us up the wall" with all his many projects for civic betterment.

For those of us who covered public affairs, Braude was always an insistent presence.
But one of the fondest memories I have of the Braudes was at a dinner party long ago in which Mrs. Braude referred to her patients as "the crazies."

Braude could be a skeptic who sometimes, however, allowed himself to be won over. He provided the last vote by which Mayor Tom Bradley was able to secure Council endorsement of the contract that brought the 1984 Olympics to Los Angeles.

Many were his colleagues Friday who were quoted as expressing fondness and respect for the honest old Councilman.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said, "Throughout his life, he advocated for the people of Los Angeles with vision, clarity, wisdom and results."

And Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky declared, "He was a leader of great integrity, of uncompromising principle, in a political era when both of those are too often lacking."

Showing how great causes often take time, and demonstrating that term limits are not always facilitators of such causes, Braude first proposed a smoking ban in public places in 1973, but did not win an encompassing one until 1993. As Rick Orlov notes today in the Daily News, Braude once was a two pack a day smoker, before he quit smoking.

And so, the man who came to Yosemite as a young honeymooner so many years ago was able to serve his adopted community in so many different ways with distinction. May he rest in peace. Those of us who lived with him in Los Angeles will long remember him.

And the Times obituary was correct and proper this morning in noting the names of some of his colleagues in the Council, Ernani Bernardi, Arthur Snyder, Hal Bernson and the late Gilbert Lindsay and John Ferraro. Also, Ed Edelman should have been mentioned.

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