In a world inured to shock-jocks and Jerry Springer, it's hard to imagine something new stirring outrage. But that is more or less what KTNQ 1020 AM, a local Spanish-language radio station, managed to do with its new billboard campaign. Promoting the station's talk-radio format, the ads feature such images as a gang member pointing a gun at his head (and one where the gun is on a Taco Bell-style Chihuahua), young Latino men climbing over a wall marked “Welcome to the United States,” and a corpse on the ground, all next to the phrase “?Que Paso?” (i.e., “What's happening?”).

The ads sparked the ire of none other than the Honorable Supervisor Gloria Molina. A nasty telephone conversation ensued, wherein Molina delivered her demands. “She said we should have put a fucking white man in the billboard,” says David Gleason, KTNQ's program director. Then the National Hispanic Media Coalition got into the fray, with Alex Nogales, director of the coalition, saying that the ads appeared to promote “a very negative stereotype.” Once the station's owners were contacted, they immediately agreed to pull the 24 billboards.

The billboards will be replaced by others, including one that says, in Spanish, “Some don't want to talk about the violence. We do.”

– Sandra Hernandez

Belmont Nigh

For bureaucratic dysfunction and irony, this was a scene too good to pass up.

The city Planning Department was holding a hearing on a Conditional Use Permit for the controversial $200 million Belmont Learning Center – a permit the school district was mandated to obtain “prior to any construction activity on the site,” according to an agreement the district signed with the city when it originally purchased the site.

And yet rising outside the picture window of the hearing room was the massive substructure of the planned six-story edifice, which, agreement notwithstanding, has been under construction for some months now – one more testament to the arrogance of the school district's development team, which has flaunted its disregard for both cost and criticism of a school that has been 12 years and $200 million in the making.

Meanwhile, the district has now assimilated a former critic. After months of wooing, Lyle Smoot, an influential official with the State Allocation Board, which earmarks state money to build schools, has taken a position with L.A. Unified as its “state building-program coordinator.” While working for the state, Smoot had numerous objections to the behemoth Belmont project, which has yet to receive any state funds. But his line on the project has apparently softened. His new duties, in fact, will include lobbying his former associates for money – including money for Belmont which, we're sure, has nothing to do with the pay raise of up to 29 percent Smoot will get in his new posting.

– Ben McKean

RICO: The Best Revenge

A few months back the Weekly brought you a report on the God Squad, a collection of preachers and political operatives who pimped themselves off to local casinos like the Commerce Club. Operating through committees like Just Say No to Casinos, investigative files of the Fair Political Practices Commission show that the God Squad was paid sub rosa to mobilize “grassroots” opposition to new card-club proposals that stood to compete for SoCal's half-billion dollar casino market.

One of the would-be casino operators stung by such tactics is looking for payback. Last month an outfit called Palace Associates, which narrowly lost a 1995 election to establish a card club in Pico Rivera, filed a civil racketeering lawsuit against the Commerce Club. The suit, which also names the casino's Sacramento-based power-lobbyist, Rodney Blonien, alleges a cornucopia of the sort of political chicanery we have come to recognize as standard operating procedure for the gaming industry. (Our favorite is an alleged $600,000-a-year “public relations” fund controlled by one Commerce Club board member who, when asked what the money was for, once said, according to testimony in another lawsuit, “You don't want to know . . . Do you want me to go to jail?”)

Many of the allegations echo charges made in another RICO suit filed against the Commerce Club, by a former board member named Peter Lynch. While Lynch's suit was dismissed, he managed to lodge in the public record all sorts of damning stuff, notably portions of a report prepared by the Commerce Club's own counsel, the tony Bird-Mirella law firm, detailing wrongdoing on the part of the casino. Look for more dirty laundry to air in this fight.

– Sam Gideon Anson

A New Outlook?

Things just haven't been the same in Santa Monica since that cold day in March when without warning the Copley Newspaper chain pulled the plug on the city's 123-year-old daily newspaper, The Outlook. Nor have the handful of new community weeklies that have popped up – most notably the L.A. Times effort called Our Times – tempered the blow.

But lo! David Ganezer, a Westside attorney-cum-businessman has announced plans to revive the paper under the name The Evening Outlook.

After a press conference last Thursday, Ganezer told OffBeat he was not undertaking the endeavor to be a local hero. “It's not about me, it's not about my ego,” said the onetime Outlook paper boy.

It is, however, about money. Copley paid a whopping $17 million for The Outlook in 1983, Ganezer says, and if he is able to re-create even a fraction of that net worth, the effort will be a success.

To make it work, Ganezer has kicked off a campaign to get 7,500 Santa Monicans to sign up in advance for one-year subscriptions. At a rate of $78 each, that would make $585,000 – Ganezer says he'll be happy with 15 percent of that in cash – to entice the necessary investors and advertisers to get the new paper off the ground.

– David Cogan

LA Weekly