Ernani Bernardi, a big band musician-turned-politician who for 32 years on the Los Angeles City Council railed against government spending and helped write the city’s first campaign reform laws, died Jan. 4 at home in Los Angeles. He was 94.
Bernardi’s wife, Eve, said he’d been in ill health for some time with congestive heart failure and had a pacemaker installed last month.
Bernardi “was well and rightly known as the conscience of the council through his work on political transparency, campaign finance, rent control and much more,” council president Eric Garcetti said in a statement on his Web log site.
Bernardi served eight terms representing L.A.’s 7th District, quitting in 1993 to make an unsuccessful run for mayor.
Born Oct. 11, 1911, in the farming and coal-mining community of Standard, Ill., Bernardi was raised by his music teacher father after his mother died in childbirth. He attended the U. of Detroit and wanted to become a sportswriter, but had to quit school due to the Depression.
He used his musical skills as a saxophone and clarinet player, playing and arranging for the likes of Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey. He arranged Goodman’s hit “And the Angels Sing.”
In 1939, Bernardi moved to Southern California with the Kay Kyser Orchestra. He and his wife, Lucille, settled in Van Nuys in 1942 and he became a construction contractor.
He lost his first City Council bid in 1957, but won the seat in 1961. The Democrat developed a reputation as a maverick who ate brown-bag lunches and was a foe of anything he considered unnecessary government spending.
Bernardi’s first wife died in 1993. He married Eve Troutman in 2001. In addition to his wife, Bernardi is survived by two daughters, two sons and seven grandchildren.