Joan Milke Flores

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Joan Milke Flores was a member of the Los Angeles City Council from 1981 to 1993, serving as the first freshman president pro tem in half a century and being one of the few Republicans on the council. She ran for California Secretary of State in 1990 and for a U.S. Congress seat in 1992. She worked her way up from being a stenographer in the City Hall typing pool.



Joan Milke was born May 9, 1936, in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, into a family with German and French ancestry. Her father, a welder and machinist, or, as she described him, a jack of all trades, brought the family to Los Angeles when Joan was eight, and they settled in Highland Park, where Joan attended Luther Burbank Junior High School and Franklin High School. Joan had three sisters and a brother.[1][2][3]

Milke was married for ten years to Sam Flores, a director with the Police Protective League. They had one daughter, Valerie, and were later divorced.[3]


Milke worked part-time in high school and, after she graduated, she went to work in the City Hall in the stenographer's pool. She then became a clerk in the office of District 15 City Councilman John S. Gibson Jr. and worked her way up to become his chief deputy, a job she held for thirteen years. She retained her home in Highland Park until approximately 1979, when she moved into Gibson's district.[3][4] Flores helped manage Gibson's final election campaign "and ran the office during his final term, when Gibson's health was suffering."[5]

Public offices[edit]

City Council[edit]


See also List of Los Angeles municipal election returns, 1981 and after

Councilman Gibson told Flores that he would not run for reelection in 1981 if she would be a candidate to succeed him, so she entered the race and won, 10,205 ballots against 9,943 for John Greenwood, her remaining opponent in the June final voting.[6] It was said that Flores's support in Watts, coupled with endorsements from Gibson and from longtime County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, was a deciding factor in the race. Though the balloting was nonpartisan, Flores was a Republican and Greenwood a Democrat.[7]

In the 1985 race, Flores was reelected without opposition on the ballot, although she did face a write-in campaign by Joe E. Collins Jr., a 21-year-old computer operator, who said that Flores had "not gone far enough to address tough toxic-waste issues and to aid troubled areas like Wilmington and Watts."[4]

In 1989 she faced a tough race with six opponents, amid charges that she had neglected her district in favor of running for higher office (below).[8]

In 1993, she was defeated in a close race for reelection to the council by Rudy Svorinich.[9][10]

Los Angeles City Council District 15 included San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City, Los Angeles, the shoestring strip of Harbor Gateway and parts of Watts and South Central Los Angeles.[11]


In the first term of her City Council career, Flores was elected by her colleagues to be president pro tem, a post third in line of importance to the Los Angeles mayor. She was "the first freshman in more than 50 years to be chosen for a council leadership position, and many supporters say the representative from District 15 is bound to go higher." She gained reputation "as one of the powerful and steadying forces on the 15-member council."[5]


During her term on the Los Angeles City Council, she created the City's first Department of Environmental Affairs; introduced many water saving policies, including grey water recycling; and was a strong proponent of long-term conservation policies as well as pro-business policies. She was the long-time chair of the City's powerful Commerce and Natural Resources committee that oversaw the Departments of Airports, Harbor, and Water and Power.[citation needed]

Two "prominent achievements" were the creation in 1988 of a Wilmington branch library and $10 million worth of public improvements in the Wilmington Industrial Park. "She also fought for recognition of Harbor City and Harbor Gateway as distinct communities, worked to save pine trees in the Harbor Pines area and helped establish a day-laborer hiring program at Ken Malloy-Harbor Regional Park." She used her influence to get almost a million dollars in restoration of the historic Watts Train Station, and she helped create the Watts Friendship Sports League.[8]

She also disagreed with Gibson, her predecessor, over his opposition to zoning, and spent timein implementing zoning plans "to counter the effects of his policies."[8]

Los Angeles Times reporter Janet Clayton wrote of Flores:

One of the few registered Republicans on the council, Flores . . . straddles the Pat Russell power bloc and other members of the council who are generally more conservative. She carefully tempers her conservative postures (strong police department supporter, anti rent control) to more liberal positions for matters of importance in her district (such as her support of a city holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)[12]

Some of Flores's other positions were:

  • Hazardous wastes, 1985. She requested that the City Council "change all permit applications—such as those for business licenses and industrial waste— to include information about the possible handling of hazardous wastes and materials." In addition, she sought the assignment of "trained, full-time inspectors" to monitor waste-related activities.[14]
  • Smoking, 1987. Flores submitted an ordinance aimed at curbing smoking in public places like restaurants, government buildings, sporting arenas, transportation facilities and schools. Some council members pressed for even more restrictive rules.[15]
  • Presidency, 1987. Flores made a bid for City Council presidency but was defeated when she could "muster only seven of the eight votes she needed to win."[16]
  • Hot coal, 1987. She appeared a press conference at the gates of the Los Angeles Harbor's bulk-loading facility, which, she complained, was inappropriately located in the harbor's recreational channel. The occasion was the emergency off-loading of a cargo of coal which had begun to heat up in the hold of a cargo ship on its way from New Orleans, Louisiana, to China. A Harbor Department official said the loading site would be repositioned elsewhere in the harbor district.[17]
  • Homeless housing, 1987. Flores announced that she had changed her mind about placing 12 trailers for homeless families at the Jordan Downs housing project in Watts because of the large number of vacant apartments in the project.[18]
  • Skateboards, bicycles, 1988. The councilwoman introduced a resolution, the city's first, to outlaw the use of skateboards and bicycles on sidewalks in San Pedro. Officials said it would set a precedent for the rest of the city.[19]
  • Metro Rail, 1992. She joined with four whistleblowers in calling for a federal investigation of mismanagement and shoddy work on Southern California Metro Rail transit projects.[20]
  • Rap Song, 1992. Flores introduced a motion into the City Council calling for Time Warner Inc. to voluntarily stop selling "Cop Killer," a rap song by Ice-T which she felt promoted the killing of police officers. Speaking of riots over the Rodney King incident, she said that it was "not responsible for record companies to be promoting songs that turn the heat up in Los Angeles right now."[21]

Secretary of state[edit]

Republican Flores ran for California Secretary of State in 1990, losing to March Fong Eu, a Democrat. Flores drew attention when, "Trailing badly and eager to begin her television advertising campaign," she borrowed $275,000 from Ernest (Tom) Papadakis, a "wealthy friend and longtime political supporter" who owned a chain of liquor stores. Eu "accused Flores of deliberately concealing the loan by filing her financial disclosure statement several days late." Flores denied the charge.[22] She was defeated by Eu, 51.7% to 41.6%.[23]


Flores ran in 1992 as the Republican candidate for the U.S. Representative from California to represent the 36th district.[24] However, she lost to Jane Harman.

Post council[edit]

Flores began a lobbying firm that did business at the Los Angeles City Hall and at the State Capitol in Sacramento. In 1995 she was appointed to the Californias Border Environmental Cooperation Committee, an alliance between California and Baja California "to address common environmental issues in the border region."[25]


Access to some of the Los Angeles Times links may require the use of a library card.

  1. ^ Milke office biography in Los Angeles Public Library reference file
  2. ^ Davin M. Watson, "Spotlight on ... Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores," Civic Center News Source, June 3, 1991, pages 1 and 2
  3. ^ a b c Mark Gladstone, "Flores Displays Her Energy, Gibson Link," Los Angeles Times, May 31, 1981, page SB-1 With map of the 15th District.
  4. ^ a b David Ferrell, "Flores Puts Record to Test in Reelection Bid," Los Angeles Times, April 4, 1985
  5. ^ a b David Ferrell, "Councilwoman Flores: Plaudits Replace Early Condescension," Los Angeles Times, February 25, 1985, page C-1
  6. ^ Los Angeles Times, June 4, 1981, page D-10
  7. ^ Mark Gladstone, "Flores Calls It 'Swing of Success,'" Los Angeles Times, June 21, 1981, Southeast Edition, page 2
  8. ^ a b c Lisa Richardson, "12 Years of Racing at a Walk Ends for Flores," Los Angeles Times, April 9, 1993
  9. ^ Greg Krikorian, "Voters' Call for Change Ousts Two Councilwomen," Los Angeles Times, June 10, 1993
  10. ^ D’Amato Lauded as Good Choice to Head Degadillo’s Staff
  11. ^ Dean Murphy, " 'Mr. Gibson':A Councilman of Deep Faith, Hard Work," Los Angeles Times, April 26, 1987 With a map.
  12. ^ "Diverse, Powerful Councilmen Firmly Grip District 'Fiefdoms,'" January 9, 1984, page C-1
  13. ^ "Business Tax Package Gets Final Council OK," Los Angeles Times, November 17, 1983, page H-3
  14. ^ "South Bay," Los Angeles Times, February 7, 1985, page SB-2
  15. ^ Ronald Soble, "L.A. Council Panel Seeks Wider Curbs on Smoking," Los Angeles Times, January 21, 1987, page C-1
  16. ^ Dean Murphy, "Flores Philosophic About Council Presidency," Los Angeles Times, July 2, 1987, page SB-1
  17. ^ Dean Murphy, "Unloading of Coal Stirs Controversy at L.A. Harbor," Los Angeles Times, August 6, 1987, page SB-1
  18. ^ "Position Changes on Trailers for the Homeless," Los Angeles Times, December 8, 1987, page OC-A-8
  19. ^ Sheryl Stolberg, "Bicyclists, Skateboarders May Surrender Sidewalks," Los Angeles Times, June 24, 1988, page K-8
  20. ^ "Flores Joins 4 Whistle-Blowers in Call for U.S. Probe of Metro Rail," Los Angeles Times, May 28, 1992
  21. ^ Chuck Philips, "Rap Song Protest Heats Up," Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1992
  22. ^ Dean Murphy, "Benefactor's $275,000 Loan Funded Flores' Television Ads," Los Angeles Times, November 1, 1990
  23. ^ JoinCalifornia website
  24. ^ Abortion Issue Grows More Important in Congressional Races
  25. ^ "Ex-Councilwoman Named to Panel on Border Ecology," Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1995
Preceded by
John S. Gibson, Jr.
Los Angeles City Council
15th District

Succeeded by
Rudy Svorinich