Former City Councilman Ernani Bernardi, a one-time jazz musician who earned the reputation as “the conscience of the City Council” during 32 years representing the San Fernando Valley, died this week. He was 94. Bernardi, who had been in failing health in recent years, died Wednesday morning at his home in Van Nuys, said his wife, Eve Bernardi. Bernardi’s tenure at City Hall was marked by his concern about the waste of taxpayers’ dollars, and his efforts to reform campaign financing and improve services for the poor. “People called him ‘the conscience of the council.’ He was a man of the people and his reputation is still strong. People really cared for him and felt he was there to protect them,” said Councilman Alex Padilla, who now occupies the 7th District seat that Bernardi held. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson And Bernardi became a compelling voice for a Valley constituency that felt neglected and at odds with what he saw as the entrenched interests of downtown Los Angeles. Bernardi also was known as “Mr. No” – a moniker he wore with pride – for his vocal opposition to various projects. “I don’t think I ever regretted one of my ‘no’ votes,” Bernardi said once. “There are plenty of ‘yes’ votes I regret, but not one ‘no’ vote.” It was Bernardi who went to court to block expansion of the Community Redevelopment Agency downtown and who spearheaded efforts to pass the city’s first campaign-reform law. “His ethical standards were beyond reproach and throughout his life, he advocated for the people of Los Angeles with intelligence and determination, often saying, ‘The only time you lose is when you quit,”‘ Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a statement. “Mr. Bernardi’s first priority was always his constituents and in seeing that the city of Los Angeles was not wasteful with taxpayer money.” Bernardi’s first career was playing saxophone during the big-band era of the 1930s and ’40s, performing with such musical greats as Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey. In the 1950s, he worked as a home builder in the burgeoning San Fernando Valley. He entered politics in 1957, losing the race for a vacant City Council seat to James Corman. When Corman was elected to Congress in 1961, Bernardi emerged victorious from a crowded field and was never seriously challenged again. Even when a growing Latino population changed the demographics of his working-class district, Bernardi remained a powerful figure. His district was redrawn several times, but he remained popular among his constituents. “He was the Los Angeles City Council’s loudest voice for the average man and woman in the city, for the average taxpayer in this city, and they couldn’t have had a better friend than Ernie Bernardi,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who served with Bernardi on the council. Bernardi, whose longtime colleague former Councilman Marvin Braude died last month, was among the last group of City Council members who were not affected by term limits. In 1993, under growing pressure, Bernardi decided to give up the political wars and retire – although he continued to periodically emerge as a voice opposed to various City Hall proposals. Bernardi, the son of Italian immigrants, was born Oct. 29, 1911, in Standard, Ill. His mother died in childbirth, so he was raised by his father, two grandmothers, an aunt and an uncle. When he was 11, he moved to the nearby town of Toluca, Ill., where he later played on the high school basketball team. His father was a music teacher and taught his son how to play woodwinds. Bernardi attended the University of Detroit, where he planned to combine his interest in sports with an education in journalism and become a sportscaster. But the Great Depression forced him to quit college and begin working as a professional musician, touring with such big-band greats as Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Bob Crosby. He met his first wife, Lucille, while playing at the Graystone Ballroom in Detroit and the couple were married in 1933. They moved to California in 1939, when Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge, with whom Bernardi was then playing, relocated to the West Coast. After Lucille’s death, Bernardi married Eve in 2001. He is also survived by two sons, John and James; two daughters, Joanne Kent and Judith McRae; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Funeral arrangements were pending. Villaraigosa ordered flags in Los Angeles to be flown at half-staff until services are held. Rick Orlov, (213) 978-0390 firstname.lastname@example.org 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!