By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
Soboroff's bolts of bad judgment have been matched by his explosions of anger. During his battle with Joel Wachs over the Staples Arena (Soboroff was the mayor's point man in the campaign to get the arena authorized and built), he dashed off a furious note to Mike Keeley, the onetime Riordan fugleman then working with Wachs. Soboroff complained that Wachs had appeared on KCET's Life and Times on Yom Kippur eve to make the case against subsidizing the arena -- though in fact, Wachs had pre-taped the interview earlier that day so he could attend Yom Kippur services. "On Yom Kippur, respected throughout the secular and Jewish world as the most sacred Jewish day, when we are to repent and ask forgiveness," he wrote, "Joel Wachs is on TV doing the opposite (if you consider lying [to be] something to ask forgiveness for)." Soboroff's intemperance was bad enough; but sending the memo to someone on Wachs' side of the battle -- guaranteeing it would see light of day -- firmly established Soboroff as a full-bore loose cannon.
Soboroff's niche in the emerging mayoral field is more or less Riordan II. Like our current mayor, Soboroff is a Republican businessman known for his deal-making. But Riordan won election at a time when the heavily Democratic Los Angeles was particularly receptive to a law-'n'-order candidacy. That time has passed. Riordan chose not to run on his deal-making skills -- but deal-making skills are Soboroff's calling card.
Indeed, Soboroff takes credit for Staples, for bringing such megadevelopers as Ed Roski and Phil Anschutz into the project of rebuilding downtown. This may help Soboroff somewhat in the fund-raising arena, but public subsidies to such developers, for which Soboroff fought long and hard, are not particularly popular among the rank-and-file L.A.-area Republicans, the Howard Jarvis types, whose votes Soboroff needs. "Soboroff thinks Staples is one of his assets," says one City Hall insider. "Ha! Joel will rip him up on Staples!"
JOEL WACHS HAS BEEN RIPPING ON STAPLES, AND against subsidies for an NFL franchise, for the past couple years now, and he's certainly found a winner of an issue. Corporate subsidies to sports billionaires, as Richard Riordan, Eli Broad and the NFL have learned to their woe, are unpopular right, left and center, and Wachs has been exploiting their unpopularity relentlessly. ã
Though he's been on the council since 1971, it's only in the past few years that Wachs has really perfected his right-left approach. Wachs wins the support of conservatives by opposing subsidies -- although, like a good progressive, he says he's willing to support subsidies if they are tied to a measurable commitment to create good jobs. He's opposed to bargaining with a developer to win commitments that the workers on the site will get a living wage, as colleague Jackie Goldberg did with the Trizec-Hahn corporation in Hollywood, but for a reason that is, if anything, ultra-left: "I'm one of the biggest proponents of the living wage," he tells me over bagels at Art's Deli in Studio City. (And, in fact, he gave the ordinance crucial support during the final council deliberations.) "But we shouldn't bargain for it; we should insist on it, citywide. At Staples, we shouldn't have to pay them millions to get [their food and janitorial concessionaires to pay] the living wage to their workers. It should be a consistent policy."
Wachs isn't really seeking the votes of the poor; his core constituency is the Valley, which he's represented on the council for nearly three decades. As a premature proponent of neighborhood councils (he touted them during his mayoral candidacy in 1993), as a self-described honest broker in adjudicating the particulars of secession, as the only candidate or prospective candidate so far who actually lives in the Valley, he is the natural candidate for Valley malcontents and Republicans everywhere (and, polling shows, a strong contender for L.A.'s Jewish vote). If Yaroslavsky doesn't run -- and even if he does -- Wachs is a formidable candidate.
Assuming, that is, that Wachs is serious about running. This is his third race for mayor; he first ran after just two years on the council, in 1973, chiefly to get himself around town. He next ran in '93, the year Tom Bradley stepped down, when his appeal to conservatives was eclipsed by the law-'n'-order campaign of outsider Richard Riordan. But in these and other efforts, he won the reputation of a dilettante. "Politics to him is a form of entertainment," one veteran Wachs-watcher says disdainfully. Wachs insists that this time, he's dead serious. He doesn't say so, but one index of his seriousness is his early declaration of candidacy and raising of funds: If there's anything he can do to keep Yaroslavsky from running, this would be it.
FOR NOW, ZEV REMAINS STUDIOUSLY MUM ON THE question of whether he'll run for mayor. His silence reinforces an image dear to some in L.A.'s political establishment -- Zev as Hamlet, indecision personified, the guy who decided to take Tom Bradley on in 1989, then dropped out just a few weeks before a scandal broke that would have left Bradley vulnerable to a serious challenge. Indeed, some critics note that Yaroslavsky hasn't had a tough campaign since he first won election to the City Council in 1975 -- when, as a raffish (some would say, shlumpy) 25-year-old street activist, he really had nothing to lose.