LA Uncensored: The Latest Gossipy Echoes Off the Hallowed Halls of City

NEW FROM MAILANDER’S LA-On October 8, Eric Garcetti will reach his one hundredth day as Mayor of the City of Los Angeles.  He will do so without displaying very much acumen at all for how to be a Mayor of a large metropolitan city. 

The top theme of Garcetti's first hundred days has been increasing civic participation--which he and consultants realized was woefully small in the very election that ushered him into office.  From his scaled-back inauguration to his ordinary citizen meet-ups to his appearance last week before a congress of Neighborhood Councils, Garcetti has spent his first 100 days mostly trying to build a base that in his election to the City's highest office was only distinguished by its smallness. 

The thing that most rankles is, Garcetti and Wendy Greuel alike promised an emphasis on jobs and jobs and more jobs in the run up to Garcetti's election.  Yet after 93 days in office, Garcetti has yet to appoint, say, a city aerospace czar--a sector in which 10,000 jobs already reside and that the city appears to be very well poised to compete in the future. 

Consider this odd complementary fact: while Garcetti has expressed such little interest in aerospace, he nonetheless found time to fiddle at length with the odd-jobber riddled Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, and even appointed Kevin James' former press aide Lydia Grant as a commissioner to oversee Neighborhood Council matters. 

This can only mean that Garcetti's first hundred days have been more interested in locking in future volunteers than looking for new jobs. 

While many of us know and love Ms. Grant, we also know her to have a thinner-than-paper resume as an aide-de-camp.  She is a bomb-tossing diva but there is nothing in her professional resume to suggest she might be the kind of in-charge figure that commission work and attendant adjudications demands.

"She is the president of the tinfoil hat club if you ever talk to her," one former Greuel staffer told me.  Long a finger-wagger at LAUSD schools while carrying water for Parent Revolution and the Parent Trigger movement, nobody even seems to know what kind of education Grant herself has that has put her in a position to wag.

She also has sat for years on one of LA's most erratic Neighborhood Councils, the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council, which among other notable anomalies allowed someone to take once-a-month $500 cash withdrawals out of its bank account for a period of five straight years.  When the bank stopped issuing the debits directly, the NC gladly absorbed a $12.50 cash advance fee for a full year.  Nobody on the NC wants to talk about why they did this--or, for that matter, why they suddenly stopped doing this on the eve of Paul Krekorian taking office. 

Council favorite and Congress of Neighborhood Council honcho Cindy Cleghorn, also from the same NC, has rode shotgun on this ride every step of the way; and she's even less accessible when it comes to asking hard questions about why the NC operates the way it does.

To me, the reason you have people like Grant and Cleghorn rising to prominence in the Neighborhood Council sphere is that they have proven to the Mayor and various Councilmembers not that they are proven leaders but because they have consistently demonstrated that they are only too glad to look the other way when shit happens.

Regardless what comes of Grant and Cleghorn, I can't understand how the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles in his first hundred days in office has so much time to devote to this tier of people, and so little to important job sectors like aerospace and fashion--especially after promising jobs, jobs and jobs. 

Before Antonio Villaraigosa entered his second term, he read a fabled biography of fabled New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, the "lower case Franklin Roosevelt" who ushered NYC into its greatest years.  Garcetti hasn't spoken of his own prep reading habits, but the way he's staffed his administration over these first hundred days would indicate that he thinks he knows it all and doesn't need any help.

His fellow Rhodes Scholar Pat Haden, the Athletic Director at USC, found out last weekend that maybe he's not infallible with regards to personnel management either. 

I strongly recommend to Garcetti Vince Cannato's book on Mayor John V. Lindsay, because after the first hundred days that's where it looks to me like Garcetti's far too-mercurial mayoralty is heading.

Around the horseshoe:

State Assembly alum Paul Krekorian was serving you in...Armenia ... last week. Krekorian has represented two Council districts in four years and represented healthy swaths of Armenian neighborhoods in both.  He was there with State Assembly alum Bob Blumenfield, and some other members of the State Assembly. They participated in "an emotional ribbon cutting ceremony" there, according to Azbarez, California's oldest Armenian-themed news source. 

Blumenfield hasn't even been a City of LA Councilman for three full months yet, so his first trip abroad as a Councilman raises a few eyebrows. Lots of City staffers got to go too. I wonder if folks in CD2 and CD3 will remember that next spring when they tell you they don't have any money for your community projects.  

 A full accounting of the trip seems in order; this is the City of Los Angeles, not the State Assembly.  We already know how the Krekorian-Blumenfield State Assembly spends money, after all; see where the State was in 2010 for details. 

Felipe Fuentes has not yet met with any representatives from the developer of the Verdugo Hills Golf Course, which hope to build around 200 homes on the site at some point in the future.  But the developer hopes the Planning Department will soon release the Draft EIR and expects to be in public comment/review phase in early 2014.

Also, Fuentes' odd "Sunland-Tujunga Homeless Working Group," which helped his Council office plan a controversial Homeless Fair that took place on 9/23 in Sunland Park, maintains its sub rosa shroud of operations. Fuentes' staff still won't release names of people involved with the group.  "I have a major concern that this [Day Street and the homeless fair] is a homeless magnet," Sonia Tatulian, former president of the Sunland-Tujunga Chamber of Commerce, told me over a Facebook exchange early last week. 

Natives are restless in Mike Bonin's district and the source of anxiety is a fairly monstrous hotel planned by a movie producer to blast apart the end of Abbot Kinney.  Even longstanding Bonin astroturfer Marta Evry has expressed concerns.  The hotel is indeed vastly out of scale with the rest of the street, one of Venice's most beloved. The would-be developer had previously tried his luck with another part of block but ran into difficulty when an office once occupied by iconic California design team Charles and Ray Eames became a rallying point against. 

Curren Price is working it out.  He recently hired Robert Katherman, a mostly-waterworks lobbyist, as his Assistant Chief of Staff for Planning and Development.  Lots of folks noted how the DWP's IBEW bought Price more aggressively than they bought any candidate including Wendy Greuel in the May 21 election--if you scale donations against prospective voters.  This hire seals the deal and helps Price do exactly what his bosses tell him to do at a superwonk level. 

I had a good chat with Price's former antagonist and opponent Ana Cubas the other day.  Price's district is one that the old wily Latino demographers hope to capture someday soon, maybe even in the next election.  Cubas, who lost to Price in the recent election, has formed a State registered PAC devoted to increasing voter participation in the District.  Cubas notes to me that the District is now 80% Latino by census tract and 51% by voter registration.  Cubas also expressed concerns to me about a recent Times story regarding Price and the issuing of permits for liquor stores--something the Councilman's district probably doesn't need many more of.  Cubas wants more Latino involvement in the district and it's pretty obvious why. 

Jose Huizar may have some other problems you've heard about, but the real sadness in the Huizar household centers on the Huizars' youngest child, who has been diagnosed with leukemia, so keep that in your very best thoughts. 

Constituents are still fuming at Mitch Englander for apparently backing away from a campaign promise regarding the permitting of a retirement community. 

Nury Martinez boldly came out against prostitution in her district.  People actually reported this.  You can I suppose expect this in the Garcetti years: every time someone does their job, there will be a press release.  And you can expect of local media: they'll print it the way you write it.  But then again... 

Joe Buscaino--wow, where do you begin? "Multiple murders in broad daylight" in San Pedro. Home invasions. This on the watch of the man who campaigned on public safety in an LAPD uniform. People are openly wondering why Buscaino put up a $50,000 reward for information on a hit-and-run death in Wilmington but didn't react with similar interest re San Pedro murders.  Problems with homeless in Leland Park continue, and Rec and Parks doesn't have the staff to manage the situation.  

And there's a new housing development on highly contaminated land that was once home to two tank farms, so contaminated that the developer has to work on one side of the property first because it's too cost prohibitive to clean it up all at once.  How'd you like to move into that?


(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 here.)





Vol 11 Issue 79

Pub: Oct 1, 2013