By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Riordan made matters worse for Hayes by endorsing her before she had fully launched her bid on her own. Hayes hopes that enough black voters will conclude that Boudreaux’s circle-the-wagons politics are mainly a shield for her own ineffectiveness.
Incumbent Jeff Horton has no race card to play in the 3rd District, which includes Echo Park, Silver Lake, Hollywood and the Wilshire corridor. But like Boudreaux, he’s been pressed into desperate countermeasures by the influx of Riordan dollars working against him. In the most discomfiting episode, Horton, as well as Bou-dreaux, attended a breakfast meeting with an out-of-town textbook marketer that resulted in each candidate receiving $10,000 in campaign contributions. Ostensibly, the contributions were made to recognize those board members’ support of bilingual education — the marketer works for a company that publishes bilingual materials. The connection to the campaign is a curious one, especially given that Boudreaux is not, in fact, a noted supporter of bilingual programs.
But the most embarrassing part was the revelation, in a front-page L.A. Times story, that the meeting had been arranged by lobbyist-developer Art Gastelum, a partner in the team building the $200 million Belmont Learning Complex. Horton and Boudreaux have been unflagging supporters of the project, even as its costs escalated and conflicts of interest emerged among members of the private development team and school-district consultants.
Thus, Gastelum’s involvement in the campaign solicitations, while legal, looks like payback. Gastelum still has a lot at stake, namely, a projected $1.2 million management fee, if his version of a plan goes through, for joint use of the new school’s recreational facilities by the city and the school district. (Horton campaign consultant Parke Skelton insisted that Horton had no advance knowledge that Gastelum would be at the meeting and presumed that Gastelum was merely acting as a lobbyist for the publisher: "It never occurred to us that this was going to be some big Belmont scandal story.")
After the Timesstory, Horton refunded the contribution, but the damage had been done to Horton’s reputation for integrity, which had never before been challenged, even by critics. Boudreaux, by the way, did not return the money. "Why should she?" said Boudreaux campaign manager Jewett Walker. "Let the chips fall where they may."
Of course, it’s almost impossible to puzzle through all the potential influence-peddling on the other side. Only time will sort out who was trying to buy good will with the mayor by supporting his pet proj-ect at the school district — or to what end. Candidates from the Riordan slate don’t bother to mask the mayor’s influence. As former Assistant Deputy Mayor Caprice Young tells it, Riordan first called her in November 1998, for suggestions on whom to draft for a school-board race. "What about me?" replied Young, who worked in the Mayor’s Office from 1994 through early 1997. Riordan’s support was not automatic; Young had to make a case for herself. But once she had won over Riordan — and Riordan alone — she was an instant player. Young, 33, concedes her inexperience in education, but insists the board will benefit from her knowledge of financial matters and computer technology.
The 51-year-old Horton, by contrast, paid his dues in a more conventional manner. A longtime district teacher, he ran for the school board after building a political base through years of activism in left-wing causes, as well as in the teachers union. He also served as a deputy to then-school-board-member Jackie Goldberg.
As a district trustee, Horton has been the school board’s most consistent and passionate supporter of the LEARN school-reform effort, a project long favored and supported by the mayor. That’s why Horton’s sense of betrayal over being abandoned by the mayor is almost palpable. In recognition of Horton’s contribution, LEARN president Mike Roos, a staunch Riordan ally, broke with Riordan to endorse Horton.
Horton stood no chance with the mayor himself. "Jeff was never under consideration, as far as I know," said one well-placed source in the mayor’s camp, who seemed incredulous at the thought of Riordan supporting Horton. This campaign aide recounted, as evidence, a tale about a meeting a couple of years back between a senior Riordan aide and Horton — then the school-board president — over conditions for the mayor’s support of a school-bond proposal. "Jeff gave her some speech back about the mayor being an elitist and not really caring about kids," said the source. "Horton should be the least surprised person in Los Angeles that he’s not being supported by the mayor."
There are larger issues than personal pique here, including Horton’s support of the spendthrift Belmont complex and his early failure to push for an inspector general to monitor district expenditures. Still, Horton’s case illustrates that, all of a sudden, getting along with Mayor Riordan may be what mostly matters.
Yolie Flores Aguilar discovered much the same reality as she geared up her run against David Tokofsky, the only incumbent endorsed by Riordan. At the time, Riordan was wavering — over his doubts about Tokofsky’s ability to lead school reform. And although he admired Tokofsky’s drive and intellect, the mayor wondered whether he should support any incumbent. Searching for an alternative, Riordan contacted a number of potential challengers, including Yvonne Chan, a charismatic principal who manages a district-sponsored charter school in the San Fernando Valley. Chan, and others, turned him down.