Yaroslavsky Hires Adviser for Campaign
Trying to repair the damage caused by memos that forced him to divorce himself from the two men who had been guiding his political career, Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky Wednesday moved to keep alive his quest for the mayor’s office by hiring a full-time campaign adviser.
Yaroslavsky also sought to appease an angry Mayor Tom Bradley, whose IQ was derided in the memo, telephoning the mayor in Hawaii.
“I have talked to City Councilman Yaroslavsky this morning,” Bradley said in a statement released by his office. “Although his explanation of recent events to the news media leaves a lot of questions unanswered, I thanked him for his quick action to sever the relationship between himself and the Berman-D’Agostino political consulting firm.”
What angered Bradley were references in the two Berman and D’Agostino (BAD) Campaigns firm memos that said, among other things, that Yaroslavsky can defeat the four-term incumbent next year because “you’ve got 50 IQ points on him (and that’s no compliment).” The memo also bluntly dealt with the necessity for Yaroslavsky to seek out wealthy Jewish contributors.
Although Yaroslavsky strongly disavowed the language and said he would not hire the BAD firm for his likely mayoral campaign, black and Jewish community leaders said that some--possibly irreparable--damage has resulted.
To this end, Yaroslavsky called on Ann Hollister, a deputy who formerly worked for Michael Berman and Carl D’Agostino, owners of the firm, to begin working full-time on his campaign.
Hollister, 31, who has worked part time on Yaroslavsky’s political strategy for nearly a year, said she would give up her council office duties this week. She has worked for Assemblyman Burt Margolin (D-Los Angeles) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Panorama City) as well as on several political campaigns run by Berman and D’Agostino.
As Hollister was shifting to full-time campaign status, political and community leaders offered varying assessments of the degree to which Yaroslavsky’s hopes of becoming mayor have been hurt. Generally, those who have supported Yaroslavsky in the past say the incident will result in no long-term damage, while opponents question whether he can recover from it.
The controversy began after The Times on Tuesday published excerpts from the Berman and D’Agostino memos. They were written in language that even some friends of Yaroslavsky considered racist, sexist and generally insulting to a wide range of the community, including Jews and Yaroslavsky himself. Particularly controversial were the excerpts urging Yaroslavsky, who is Jewish, to press wealthy Jews hard for campaign funds and also noting that some white liberals have voted for Bradley to ease their guilt.
Recognizing their political volatility, Yaroslavsky moved swiftly on Tuesday to disavow the memos and announced he would not hire Berman and D’Agostino Campaigns (known as BAD) to run his expected mayoral campaign next year.
But whether Yaroslavsky’s action was decisive enough to save his campaign was debated by a number of black and Jewish leaders.
Both blacks and Jews said the tone of the memos could heighten racial tensions in a city that has been governed, over the years, by a sometimes uneasy liberal coalition dominated by blacks, Jews and Latinos. Bradley helped build the coalition and benefited from it.
Stanley Treitel, a grass-roots community leader in the heavily Jewish Fairfax area, said portions were offensive to Jews and would also increase tensions between blacks and Jews.
“We don’t have to create more tension, we have enough tension already,” Treitel said.
‘Issue Will Dog Him’
“I as a Jew feel insulted by those guys, Michael Berman and his partner. If that is all we are good for, just money, if that is all we have contributed to society. . . ,” Treitel said.
“I think (Yaroslavsky) is doing the right thing in telling them they are not involved in the campaign. (But) I think the issue will dog him over a long time.”
Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), one of the most powerful black political leaders in the city, said that the memos brought tears to her eyes and she felt a sense of betrayal. She said the BAD memos “pretty much destroyed my thinking about the possibility that there are those in the so-called coalition who see you as an equal.”
Waters said she has been resisting requests for her endorsement of the Occidental-backed oil-drilling initiative on the November ballot, but is now “reassessing” in light of the fact that BAD apparently will continue to run the campaign for a rival measure sponsored by Yaroslavsky and Councilman Marvin Braude.
Yaroslavsky’s distancing himself from the memos, which he said were “insulting and contemptuous,” was seen by many as a helpful--if not absolutely necessary--move to calm the fury. The councilman’s supporters said the matter should now be settled.
“When the dust settles and it will settle quickly, the focus will go back to questions of overdevelopment, traffic congestion, planning, rebuilding and dilapidated buildings; this kind of question that an election should be based on,” Rep. Howard Berman said.
Berman, brother of Michael Berman and a partner in the Waxman-Berman political machine on the city’s Westside, said the incident involving his brother is a “transitional, fleeting, momentary distraction because, fundamentally, it has nothing to do with (Yaroslavsky’s) positions or his views.”
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), the other half of the politically powerful coalition, acknowledged that many people have concerns about black and Jewish relations, but pointed out that Yaroslavsky has an “excellent record of representing a broad cross-section of people.”
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.