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
Last week, however, it seemed like those lobbyists -- the term of art is ”consultants“ -- might as well be living upstairs. Looking out over the house for the Tuesday meeting that saw the first true council-presidency shootout in 20 years, the big event looked as pre-booked as the Frazier-Ali fights. But instead of mobsters and high rollers, the darkly dressed-to-the-nines, standing-room audience in the 400-capacity old room were lobbyists. And when Alex Padilla, the youngest person on the council, was declared council-president winner over Ruth Galanter -- one of the council‘s most senior, and wisest, heads -- they applauded and cheered for minutes. You could almost see a vast cartoon thought-balloon hanging over the entire crowd, exclaiming: ”At last, someone we can really work with.“
At last, indeed. The Riordan years hadn’t been the best of eras for the city lobby. Not that it had declared bankruptcy. There‘d been plenty of vastly remunerative projects whose masterminds recruited lobbyists by the busload: Playa Vista, police towing contracts, the broadband ordinances and the new police-communications network alone kept plenty of baguettes on lobbyist dinner tables during the ’90s.
But things had definitely declined since the golden Bradley years, when the lobby was so well-accommodated that one top lobbyist got to park his red Ferrari next to the mayor‘s official Lincoln. Dick Riordan, bless him, tended to play his own hand, to help his favorites, rather than those who represented the favorites. And so the lobby grew tarnished, even in the council: Jackie Goldberg hung out a lobbyist-taunting sign that said ”No Gifts.“ Ruth Galanter shared her own, lobbyist-ridiculing light verse. The Times even exposed the intricate connections and conflicts that result from so many lobbyists’ shared status as campaign consultants, not to mention as former council members, former council staff, former appointed city officials. No, not a great time for the trade.
But mid-2001 is Morning in Los Angeles -- for the lobby, anyway. To the rest of us, there was something scary about a public event as important as Padilla‘s election playing to what looked like a reserved house: just the old and new council members and this vast army of immaculately turned-out wannabe pals, eagerly seeking common interests, while those who actually voted the council into office were scarcely to be seen. Let’s just hope that some of the newcomers were as chary as Brainard managed to be, 68 years ago.
So who is this guy, council President Alex Padilla, anyway? Well, as you may recall, he got himself elected two years ago to the latterly Latino North Valley seat that Richard Alarcon abandoned for higher office. And while he may be inexperienced and 28, he is also tall, Tyrone Power handsome, real smart, and boy is he slick. Although he‘s not exactly the first guy you’d want to count on to return a favor. Hardscrabble labor supporters -- janitors, hotel workers and so on -- elected him to the council. Dick Riordan was his early mainstay. The workers and the mayor supported Antonio Villaraigosa, but Padilla went for Hahn. Padilla certainly didn‘t want another Latino getting ahead of him in his lunge for the Mayor’s Office. And as Joe Stalin used to put it, ”Gratitude is a dog‘s disease.“
Anyway, this Padilla is definitely a guy who knows what he is doing. Both he and Galanter made allegedly impromptu stump speeches Tuesday to sell their qualifications. Galanter’s was informal, frank and to the point, just like she‘s been over the past 14 years, for better or worse. Padilla orated a valedictorian special that included high-flown phrases like ”their history, their bruises and their scars.“ When it came time for the obligatory mention of his council-president mentor, ”the late John Ferraro,“ Padilla accomplished a delicate tremolo on those words that would have been the envy of the finest clavichordist alive. And, of course, he won big: 9-5.
But I know one thing about John Ferraro that I bet Padilla knows too: Were he still alive, Big John would have engineered his wily old adversary Nate Holden into the presidency before he allowed this key post to go to the youngest and most visibly ambitious member of this current august body.
But Big John is dead. Welcome to the new era.