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Uneasy Rests the Crown

City Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg’s office is in an uproar over who will succeed her when she leaves for the state Assembly next year. Things got so hot over the summer, several aides threatened a mutiny if the boss refused to back their candidate, sources say.

It all started when Goldberg’s brother, maverick civil rights attorney Art Goldberg, unexpectedly threw his hat in the ring. Blood being thicker than water — and Jackie and Art being close both politically and personally — Jackie handed her brother an endorsement. But that scrambled top aides’ plans to have HUD official Mercedes Marquez, the life partner of Goldberg housing deputy Mirta Ocana, anointed the heir apparent. It also left longtime Goldberg aide Conrado Terrazas, who has been raising money and campaigning for months, out in the cold.

When Jackie returned from her summer vacation in Hawaii, she was confronted by angry pro-Marquez staffers, who demanded she either renounce her brother or issue a split endorsement, sources say. Goldberg denies that any of her employees called for dumping Art, or threatened to quit, but acknowledges there was a bit of a dustup over the endorsement. “There are some of them that have had some differences with me. We don’t have required thinking in this office. They are encouraged to voice their views,” she says. In any event, by the time the fur settled, Goldberg had promised to issue a dual endorsement of Marquez and Art when the housing honcho, who has not yet declared her candidacy, jumps into the race.

“It is a decision I made based on her quality of leadership and issues she would raise that are similar to my brother’s,” Goldberg says. “And as a feminist I support women candidates.” A bit perplexingly, however, Jackie continues to say of brother Art, “I am behind him 100 percent.” Now, the powerful Goldberg’s political reach may be wide, but we’re not sure where a 100 percent embrace of Art leaves Marquez.

In any event, Terrazas was upset (he prefers the word “disappointed”) that he would be the only one in Goldberg’s inner circle who wouldn’t get a nod from the chief. The snub was particularly stinging, as Goldberg reportedly followed up by pushing up the date Terrazas would leave the council office to begin campaigning full time. (Both Terrazas and Goldberg say the separation date was arrived at mutually, but his departure in September from his $51,156-a-year post came nine weeks before the official campaign season opens, and a full eight months before the June 5 general election.)

“I was surprised by it, given my background and what I have done for the 13th District,” a stoic Terrazas says. “I believe that I am the best choice in the race. I know the constituencies. I worked with Jackie for six years.”

Amazingly, Art Goldberg is just as incensed as Terrazas — not by the dual endorsement, which he expected, but by the shoddy treatment accorded his rival.

“I think that it is absolutely terrible how many people have discounted Conrado,” Goldberg says. “He is a human being that has paid his dues, given to the community and then, ‘Oh, Conrado! Who is he?’ I wouldn’t treat anyone the way they treated him.” Goldberg evaded the question of whether “they” includes his sister, of whom he will only say, “You have to talk to her about it.”

The funny thing is, Goldberg’s endorsement may not be the imprimatur it may have seemed. The wide-open race has attracted such diverse candidates as Eric Garcetti (son of District Attorney Gil); former elected charter-reform commissioner Bennett Kayser; Gay and Lesbian Police Advisory Task Force chair Sandra Farrington-Domingue; outgoing state Assemblyman Scott Wildman; and Geoffrey Saldivar, head of the Rampart Rangers community-watch group.

“I think endorsements can be good, but you have to look at what people have done, their background and what they have done in the community,” says a still-hopeful Terrazas.

—Christine Pelisek

ABC Rocks en Español

Dressed in a dark-blue suit, a dapper-looking Peter Jennings began his evening newscast last Monday with an unfamiliar phrase: “Buenas noches, and that is all the Spanish you will hear from me,” said the urbane newscaster.

It was an appropriately brief kickoff for ABC World News Tonight’s Spanish simulcast, which, despite the hoopla about being a “first” for any of the Big Three networks, appears unlikely to bring any real change to the broadcast-news dinosaurs.

ABC is hailing the new simulcast as a way to give those who speak Spanish “a broader view of the world by having access to our broadcast,” according to a network press release. Translation: ABC hopes to capture the Latino market and grab mucho dinero without changing the network’s news programming. But that could be tough.

Spanish-language newscasts currently outperform their English-language counterparts in cities such as Los Angeles and New York with a trademark blend of stories from Latin America and coverage of local issues. Executive producers at ABC insist they aren’t competing with the Spanish-language network giants Univision or Telemundo, but instead expect viewers to flock to ABC’s national newscast because of its “better production value” and broader vantage point. When asked if that means greater coverage of Latin America, executive producer Paul Slavin said not for the moment. Instead, Spanish monolingual and bilingual viewers can discover stories such as Latina power or the growing influence of Latinos in California politics, he added.

The network’s foray into the Latino world comes at a critical moment as Nielsen Media Research, provider of the influential viewer-monitoring system used to formulate advertising rates, prepares to factor Spanish-language programs into the ratings mix. But don’t expect Latinos to jump to ABC just because it is in Spanish, said the Freedom Forum’s Felix Gutierrez. “The attraction is you are getting the Anglo news in Spanish, but I don’t forecast Latinos will switch to ABC simply because of that,” he says. Memo to ABC: It’s the content, stupid.

—Sandra Hernandez

Homies Unidos Persecution Continues

Call it a house divided or simply bad judgment, but the Department of Justice (DOJ) is getting a little strange in its treatment of former-gang-member-turned-peacemaker Alex Sanchez.

You may remember Sanchez, the director of Homies Unidos, a binational group working to broker a peace between rival gangs here and in El Salvador. Sanchez’s arrest in January by a cop from the Rampart Division’s now infamous CRASH anti-gang unit, no fan of Homies, raised cries of illegal harassment, in part because the officer, in apparent violation of a city directive, handed Sanchez over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The LAPD failed to come up with any good reason for arresting Sanchez, or for passing him along to the feds. But that didn’t stop DOJ, which went after him on two fronts: The INS slammed Sanchez into a federal detention center and prepared to deport him. And the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles prepared to charge him with re-entering the U.S. illegally.

After staffers from state Senator Tom Hayden’s office and others cautioned DOJ that it was being used by cops accused of harassing Sanchez because of his work with Homies, however, the U.S. Attorney dropped its criminal case, citing Sanchez’s peace work. Undaunted by either the messy arrest or murky legal history, the INS soldiered on, arguing that Sanchez should be held and deported because of a 1990 conviction for grand theft auto.

That point became moot when Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler late last month vacated the theft conviction, ruling that Sanchez had not been properly advised that pleading guilty would subject him to the more serious federal re-entry charge. The motion to throw the conviction out was argued by attorney Mark Geragos, who also successfully defended Whitewater figure Susan McDougal against embezzlement charges.

INS was forced to release Sanchez but insisted it wasn’t about to abandon its deportation action.

Sanchez is due in November in immigration court, where he will argue that his forced return to El Salvador would be tantamount to a death sentence. His claim is supported by Senator Hayden, San Salvador’s chief of police and various activists, who point to the murders of three other Homies Unidos members by death-squad groups in El Salvador as proof that Sanchez’s life is in danger. But the INS has been busy lining up witnesses to counter such testimony, says his lawyer, Alan Dimante.

In the meantime, Sanchez is back at work trying to convince former gang members that getting out and staying clean pays off. As for his most recent odyssey through the court system, Sanchez remains curiously optimistic, saying he hopes his case will finally begin to bring a reality check to the debate about crime, gangs and life on the streets of L.A.

“Perhaps people will listen to what is really going on in the neighborhoods,” says Sanchez. “Perhaps this and the Rampart scandal will give us some credibility and show that LAPD has a lot of work to do.”

—Sandra Hernandez


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