Former L.A. City Council President Pat Russell dies at 97

Former Los Angeles City Council President Pat Russell, a group activist who turned the primary lady elected to the highly effective publish, died Thursday. She was 97.

Russell died in her dwelling after affected by most cancers, her son David wrote on Fb. “I adored her as Mother, but additionally as some of the extraordinary individuals I’ve ever recognized,” he wrote.

Russell represented the sixth District for 18 years, till 1987. It was one of many metropolis’s most numerous, with voters unfold roughly equally among the many largely white and prosperous Westchester and Playa del Rey, the middle-class bed room group of Mar Vista and counterculture hub of Venice, and the majority-Black Crenshaw.

Her slice of Los Angeles was a microcosm of the problems dealing with fashionable American cities — racism, noise, growth, site visitors congestion and tensions over the right way to use a dwindling provide of land — but she balanced her constituents’ pursuits with talent, observers mentioned.

She is remembered as a rarity: a politician who was kind of apolitical, disdaining self-promotion in favor of behind-the-scenes consensus constructing.

“She by no means fearful about her personal accolades,” mentioned former aide David Grannis. “She needed to get issues completed, and she or he helped different individuals assist her do this.”

In a 1983 Instances profile, a number of former press secretaries bemoaned Russell’s refusal to “play the publicity recreation.” However her colleagues discovered the standard refreshing.

“She lower by the B.S. with relative ease, like a knife by butter,” mentioned former Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who served with Russell for 11 years.

Patricia Ann Ostroot was born in Portland, Ore., in 1923. She went to public faculties and attended the College of Washington, the place she was a Phi Beta Kappa and pupil physique president.

It was in faculty that she met returning U.S. Military serviceman William T. Russell, with whom she shared a love of the outside. They married in 1946 and had three kids: Steven, David and Mercedes.

The household moved to Westchester, the place William labored for TRW as an aerospace engineer, in 1953.

A brand new neighbor launched Pat to the League of Ladies Voters. She was ultimately elected president of the Los Angeles metropolis chapter, then the Los Angeles County chapter.

“The league taught sensible group,” Russell later recalled, “and supplied intimate publicity to City Corridor.”

In 1969, Russell started in search of a candidate to groom for the seat of retiring Council President L.E. Timberlake. Discovering none, she ran herself on a platform that included opposing enlargement of Los Angeles Worldwide Airport land. She received an uphill battle to defeat Timberlake’s hand-picked successor, Ed Small.

For the primary six years of her tenure, Russell was the one lady on the 15-member physique. She would typically downplay the historic nature of her service and the sexism she confronted.

“Possibly the ladies’s libbers don’t like me for it an excessive amount of, however I take in no matter chauvinism and paternalism there could also be so long as I can preserve the accent on points and efficiency,” she instructed The Instances in 1971 for a profile that named her a Instances Lady of the Yr.

Nonetheless, The Instances’ protection of her, itself, typically veered into stereotypes, with articles repeatedly commenting on her look and assessing her attractiveness. (The identical Lady of the Yr profile described her as “fairly sufficient to have been an actress, actual sufficient to not right a crooked entrance tooth.”)

As councilwoman, Russell rapidly received colleagues’ respect for her progressivism and candor. They elected her president in 1983.

“She was a trailblazer for those who believed in financial and social justice,” mentioned former Councilman Richard Alatorre.

Russell numbered amongst her achievements the sponsorship of metropolis noise rules for Los Angeles Worldwide Airport, which turned the usual for federal legislation; assist of zoning reforms that made it simpler to ascertain extra childcare facilities and advocacy of the Metro rail subway challenge. In 1984, she was writer of a measure requiring builders in a lot of her district to assist pay for transportation enhancements earlier than their initiatives might be constructed. It was billed as town’s boldest effort to make personal enterprise pay for public enhancements and have become a mannequin for different areas.

Russell can be credited with altering the Los Angeles Police Division’s coverage for investigating officer-involved shootings, transferring the accountability from the division to the district lawyer.

“On constitutional policing points and civil liberties questions, she was a rock,” Yaroslavsky mentioned. “And he or she was a rock as a result of she believed in it, not as a result of it was politically remunerative to her.”

An avowed regionalist, Russell served as president of the Southern California Assn. of Governments and chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Transportation Fee, a predecessor to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

She was happiest when she was mentoring younger girls, relishing the time she spent with highschool college students by a program that invited them to spend a day with their elected representatives, Grannis mentioned.

A staunch ally of then-Mayor Tom Bradley, Russell contended with an more and more militant anti-development motion and in 1987 was compelled right into a runoff in opposition to Ruth Galanter, an city planner backed by environmental teams.

The following race was framed as a referendum on Bradley and his embrace of financial growth, in addition to on the way forward for Los Angeles’ progress extra broadly. Russell misplaced.

By all accounts, she relished life after politics. She organized the Regional Institute of Southern California, a public-private partnership that explored native issues, and labored about half of the time as its head, she instructed The Instances in 1991.

That gave her time to pursue her actual loves: mountain climbing, mountaineering and snowboarding. Russell remained lively all through her 90s, volunteer ushering at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, attending Holy Nativity Church in Westchester and “delighting in the fantastic thing about life and the vigor of her beloved Los Angeles,” based on her son.

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