MAILANDER’S LA - This is just shocking, the fact that President Obama staffers ditched the Greuel campaign. You don't just quit like this, leaving such a vital part of a campaign, with eight weeks left, unless you have tacit "permission" from big people--otherwise you'd never work again. It had to be cleared by some very high people.
Former Republican Greuel, who has never really been much of a Democrat, must have burned a lot of bridges to the Democratic Party by taking Republican Riordan's endorsement so gleefully.
But there's another thing at work here, too, I think--something that won't appear in media. This week it really came out in political chatting circles if not in public: Wendy Greuel would like to re-establish the CRA, and not the Villaraigosa CRA but the cronyist Riordan CRA--because the cronyist Riordan CRA is the only kind of redevelopment she knows that works. It represents a departure from the thinking of some of her best Democratic friends. It does not please some of the more rational Democrats in Sacramento who are getting used to living without Republican cronyism.
Wendy Greuel and Cecelia Estolano had always been cautiously tight--and when Villaraigosa fired Estolano, he replaced her with Greuel's Studio City friend Chris Essel in large part to appease a very angry Greuel. Then Essel ran the agency straight into the ground and that was that.
Estolano herself is kind of a fascinating hybrid, since public life always more beholden to Sacramento and even Washington than to Los Angeles. But local Democrats and some State Democrats have held her at arms length because of that--even at the CRA she had been known to trade off LA interests for Sacto interests.
She also has, through "strategic planning," set up or at least enabled a lot of quasi-political organizations since leaving the CRA for Green for All and then a boutique quasi-political firm that simply have not paid off. Madeline Janis, another one of the former CRA's top figures during the agency's downward spiral, is in a similar boat at LAANE.
Estolano, Janis, and Essel were all supposed to grow jobs, but all they chiefly knew how to grow were political Astroturf organizations and lobbies. That wasn't the assignment, and Greuel knows it wasn't--she likes Riordan's way better.
It is said that Greuel still believes in the cronyist Riordan CRA fairy dust--as Riordan did and still does--and that's the real reason she called on the former Republican Mayor. But Janis and Estolano won't have anything to do with Riordan's vision for LA.
In fact, Janis, absolving Estolano and Essel for their years as the Agency's last heads, a few months ago in a column at HuffPo criticized the fact that Riordan "created a legacy of insider, backroom deals at the CRA, which contributed to the ultimate demise of that institution last year." By snuggling up to Riordan, Greuel has not distanced herself from that kind of CRA--and vision for Los Angeles--sufficiently.
Greuel in fact as Controller disappointed nearly everyone in releasing one of her patented grandstanding audits that criticized the CRA for attempting to sequester funds elsewhere in City budgets--something that was inappropriate for a Controller to do, criticize the City for trying to hang onto money. What?
Essel of course was a political disaster. I had breakfast with a political consultant on Thursday and he said this race was shaping up to be exactly like Krekorian v. Essel--but still Greuel/Essel's money spooked him. I think he'll be a little less spooked after the news today.
(Joseph Mailander is a writer, an LA observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He is also the author of Days Change at Night: LA's Decade of Decline, 2003-2013. Mailander blogs at www.josephmailander.com.)
Vol 11 Issue 25
Pub: Mar 26, 2013