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Riordan Trip Shows One Administration Strength: Juggling

Look carefully at the list of 29 Angelenos and the jam-packed itinerary that Mayor Richard Riordan will be taking with him tonight on an El Al jetliner to Israel.

Among the Friends of Dick and the handful of city commissioners, you’ll see signs of the balancing act that went on to get a delegation that reflects much of the city’s broad cultural and ethnic diversity.

Study the dizzying list of stops on the tour and you can guess at the tension between the mayor’s priorities and those of the Israeli government, which is treating the mayor’s first official trip to the country as a state visit of the highest level.

“There was a lot of interest in this visit; we had a lot of input, which is good,” Deputy Chief of Staff Steven Sugerman said diplomatically. Only his eyes hinted that it might also have been a bit of a headache.

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Those accompanying the mayor--none of the 29, including Riordan, is going at taxpayers’ expense--were chosen with an eye toward reflecting the city’s diversity, Sugerman said.

Most, not surprisingly, come from Los Angeles’ Jewish community--the second-largest (behind New York City) outside Israel. They include Riordan confidant Steven Soboroff and his wife, Patti; Rabbi Gary

Greenebaum of the American Jewish Committee, a former Riordan police commissioner; home builder executive Bruce Karatz; Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; and David A. Lehrer of the Anti-Defamation League. The two staffers going along--Chief of Staff Robin Kramer and her second-in-command, Sugerman, also are Jewish.

There are also two African Americans, Joe Hicks of the Multicultural Collaborative and Genethia Hudley Hayes of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; one Latino, business owner Frank Moran; and one Asian American, toy district business leader Peter Woo. Federal Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw--wife of Riordan friend and political guru Bill Wardlaw--will go along, as will leader of children’s advocates and Riordan companion Nancy Daly. (“My best friend,” the mayor says.)

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Now that may not seem like a very broad group to one familiar with the vast ethnic, racial and socioeconomic range that makes up Los Angeles, but Israeli government officials, used to hosting scores of official visits each year, were impressed, Sugerman said.

“They told us this is the most diverse delegation ever,” said Sugerman, who, along with Kramer, did most of the work with Israeli and Jewish community officials in selecting the group and putting together the itinerary. They also, apparently, had to say no to a few stops and more than a few aspiring delegates.

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The itinerary itself hints at the balancing act required to reach that ideal blend of features that most interest Riordan--a multimillionaire businessman, lawyer and philanthropist with an interest in education--and the Israeli government, which wanted to be sure the mayor and his guests saw all the historic places and met its most important political leaders and public figures.

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It starts with a Monday morning meeting with Israeli Knesset leaders and wraps up Sept. 8 with a 12-hour day of industry inspections.

The schedule was formed in months of painstaking arrangements that began with an October invitation from the mayor of Jerusalem.

“The Israeli government worked hard to make sure the mayor’s interests were addressed,” Sugerman said. “We believe this very busy itinerary reflects the input we received from the community and the Israeli government as well as the mayor’s interests.”

Events range from an especially local twist to the 15-month-long “Jerusalem 3000" celebration of the historic city--a meeting with expatriate Angelenos--to meetings with top government officials and the mayors of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and a visit with Leah Rabin, widow of the slain prime minister whom Riordan had met.

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Along the way, Riordan will help launch a cultural and business exchange program with Tel Aviv, meet with Palestinian leaders, participate in a forum aimed at easing tensions between peoples of different cultures and visit a center for newly arrived Soviet immigrants. He also plans a meeting with the head of a shipping company whose business he is hoping to lure back to Los Angeles from its rival port, Long Beach.

This is Riordan’s second official trip abroad since taking office in mid-1993. (Riordan staffers don’t really count last year’s goodwill visit to the Republic of Ireland because Riordan, an Irish American, was part of a delegation headed by President Clinton.)

Not everything has turned out perfectly, though. There’s the delicate matter of not being able to squeeze in a visit to L.A.'s sister city, Eilat.

That potential etiquette problem was defused, however, when Eliat’s mayor took things into his own hands.

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So since Riordan can’t come to Eliat, Eliat’s delegation will come to Riordan during his stay in Israel.


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