L.A. Council President Herb Wesson today officially unveiled a new "L.A. 2020" Commission tasked with wading through L.A.'s finances and developing some recommendations to keep the city out of bankruptcy court.
Though the commission's chair, Mickey Kantor, has said repeatedly that the commission will avoid politics, its roster includes two of the biggest names in the L.A. mayor's race: Brian D'Arcy, the head of Working Californians, and Tyler Izen, the president of the L.A. Police Protective League.
Combined, the two labor leaders have spent $2.6 million trying to elect Wendy Greuel as the next mayor.
The commission has 12 members and one alternate. Of those, five are supporting Greuel: Kantor, D'Arcy, Izen, David Fleming and George Pla. According to a search of contributor and endorsement lists, none of the commissioners are supporting her opponent, Councilman Eric Garcetti.
Greuel immediately embraced the committee, calling it "refreshing." Garcetti had declined to comment on the commission until today, when it was formally unveiled.
In an interview, Garcetti said he would "take good ideas wherever they come from," but he also made it clear that he intends to bring his own budget proposals into office.
"I've been saying in a very detailed way how we balance the budget," Garcetti said.
In an interview, Kantor said it was important to include D'Arcy and Izen because both represent large numbers of city workers, who play a key role in setting the city's fiscal course.
"They are a vital part of this process," Kantor said. "To keep them outside would not be very effective... This has nothing to do with the mayor's race -- zero."
That fact, plus the inclusion on the commission of Garcetti's two most powerful foes, suggests that Wesson and Garcetti may have a difficult relationship should Garcetti be elected on May 21. The two jockeyed for control of the council in 2010, before Wesson finally succeeded Garcetti as council president in late 2011.
Garcetti, however, downplayed the notion that there might still be tension between the two.
"Herb and I talk all the time," Garcetti said. "I intend to be the closest mayor, in terms of a working relationship with the City Council, that we've had since Tom Bradley. We have a great friendship, a good working relationship, and I look forward to that.... We're close friends."
Speaking today at the Central City Association, Wesson made it clear that whoever is elected, he intends to play an equal role in setting city policy.
"I'm telling you and you can rest assured that when you go talk to the mayor, whoever that is, you better come talk to me, because I'm going to be an equal partner, the council will be," Wesson said, according to the Downtown News . "We're not going to be a junior partner."
Also today, ex-candidate Jan Perry endorsed Garcetti. Greuel and her allies had attacked Perry during the primary for declaring bankruptcy twice in the mid-1990s. Speaking at a press conference today, Perry brought up those attacks, saying it was tantamount to Greuel telling her that "I respect you so little that I would delve into your personal background."
Perry finished fourth in the mayoral primary, just behind Republican Kevin James. Perry, however, took the largest share of the African-American vote, giving her substantial clout in the runoff.
A couple hours later, Greuel accepted the endorsement of Lakers legend Magic Johnson. She was joined by other prominent supporters in the black community, including Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and L.A. Sentinel publisher Danny Bakewell.
The African-American vote made up roughly 12% of the total turnout in the March primary, according to an LMU exit poll
. That vote could prove critical if it swings heavily in one direction or the other, as it has in past campaigns.
"I think it's gonna be very competitive," said Garcetti's strategist, Bill Carrick. "I don't think there's gonna be any landslide for anybody in the African-American community."
But Greuel's supporters think she has a chance to take a large majority of the black vote.
"It's a bloc vote. It's pivotal," Ridley-Thomas said. "She's gonna get a significant portion of the African-American vote. It'll be north of 60 (percent). There's no conceivable way the Garcetti campaign will be as operational as the Greuel campaign in the African-American community."