Lobbyist John Ek

Lobbyist John Ek often gets his way at Los Angeles City Hall, thanks to his carefully nurtured connections with top city officials. But not everyone sees this as a bad thing.

Our cover story on Ek ("Mr. Juice: How the Invisible John Ek Gets His Way at City Hall," by Gene Maddaus, April 22) opened with the tale of how he enabled a Montecito Heights nursing home to place solar panels on a hillside. Neighbors fought the plan, saying the panels would be a visual blight. But Broadview nursing home hired Ek, and prevailed.

Reader Rodney Hoffman writes: "I live in Montecito Heights and I think the solar array is beautiful. I want to see much more solar power everywhere."

Martin Blink adds: "It's endlessly annoy-ing to read that the Montecito Heights Improvement Association continues to denounce our beautiful solar array. I see the installation as art that also functions to save energy. Christo could not have done it better."

The comment draws this response from reader Ross: "You are missing the point. L.A. has very, very few protected hillsides. Why didn't the nursing home put the panels on their roof like every other 'clean energy' project?

"The Montecito Heights Improvement Association was also concerned about the 'process' or lack of process that Broadview took with this project. Not one neighbor was notified that this was happening. "

Our story goes on to detail Ek's success in scuttling the bids submitted by companies trying to take over food concessions at LAX. HMS Host finished fourth out of four bidders. The company hired Ek, who, aided by his allies City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and City Council members Janice Hahn and Tony Cardenas, succeeded in getting the bids thrown out.

Reader Carlo Pappas defends lobbyists. "The author has created a nexus of evil shrouded behind those big, menacing closed doors of government with zero solution to the systematic problem in local politics. You want the real story? Most people are stupid. Period. That's the story.

"When I say most people, I am including our elected officials. They are human and can't possibly maintain the bandwidth to know everything about everything.

"Ready for the punch line? We need lobbyists. Yup, sometimes we can't find enough talent to put up with working in the city sector, so we need to import private to keep it raining."

Maria writes: "The Autry Museum hired [Ek] to try to get its permits to expand in Griffith Park instead of renovating the National Register of Historic Places Southwest Museum building in the Arroyo Seco to exhibit the Southwest's collections. There are times that the overwhelming voice of the people can overrule even the most influential of lobbyists — and that was the case. That time Ek did not get his way...."

Lalex writes: "Three powerful people: Trutanich, Hahn and Ek working hard and successfully for causes not in the public interest. Wouldn't it be great to see what they could accomplish in the people's interest?"

Subsidy to Lure Architecture Firm

Many readers defended the city of Los Angeles' decision to use $1 million of federal money to entice global architecture firm Gensler to move its local office from Santa Monica to downtown ("Huge Subsidy for Stadium Architect," by Martin Berg, April 22). The money would come from federal community development block grants, which are intended largely to help low-income people and communities.

Armin Tanzarian writes: "The same scena-rio is happening with Google moving from Santa Monica to Venice and any business moving into L.A. After a year the city of L.A. will start reaping the tax dollars from having a new business within the city limits."

Anonympho says, "The city will obviously recover this money (which is not exactly a fortune anyway ... the price of an average house in an average L.A. neighborhood, really) many times over during the ensuing years of Gensler's tenure downtown, both through taxes and work brought to the district."

Other readers see the situation differently. "I'm sure that Santa Monica citizens are pleased to see that federal funds are being used to entice Gensler away from their community," Jpsauer writes.


The story on lobbyist John Ek mistakenly attributed a quotation to Nick Karno. The speaker's name is Richard Karno.

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