From Developing Pols to Developing Malls


As one of the San Fernando Valley’s top political consultants, James Acevedo played a key role in changing the political landscape of the Valley, helping to elect state Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Sylmar), Assemblyman Tony Cardenas (D-Panorama City) and Los Angeles City Council President Alex Padilla, all three of whom have achieved “firsts” in California Latino politics.

But since then, Acevedo and Alarcon have had a falling out, and Cardenas has lost a costly election campaign to join Padilla on the City Council.

Acevedo said last week that he has decided to get out of the paid political tactician business and focus his efforts on building shopping centers and other projects.


“I’m tired,” Acevedo said. “I just turned 50. This is like the third part of my life, because I was a hospital administrator before [political consultant]. I want to make a living for my family now.”

Acevedo still hopes to play a role as unpaid advisor when one of his allies needs help, but he has opened a downtown office for his firm, Grapevine Development, and spends most of his time there now.

“I will miss it,” he said of the political work. “I set out on a task of trying to get people in our community to step up and run, and they did it at a time when there weren’t a lot of people from our community in office. Now we have Latinos running against Latinos. I’m really happy about that.”


A Net Gain Either Way

The bets are down between California Gov. Gray Davis and New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey over who will win the NBA championship.

If the Los Angeles Lakers win the best-of-seven series, McGreevey has offered Davis a weekend on the Jersey shore and a bushel of corn and tomatoes.

If the New Jersey Nets prevail, Davis will provide his East Coast counterpart a case of Robert Mondavi wine, some California artichokes, avocados, strawberries, a CD of the song “I Love L.A.” and two tickets to Disneyland.

In a satellite hookup between the two govs, Davis said the Lakers’ recent Western Conference finals victory over the formidable Sacramento Kings “proved ... that they played with heart and showed people why they are the reigning NBA champions.”

The California Republican Party couldn’t resist jumping in with its own partisan suggestion on what Davis should have offered to send to New Jersey, including “$95 million worth of useless Oracle software,” “$40 billion of lousy energy contracts” and “$24 billion in general fund debt.”

The odds are good that Davis did not think the GOP suggestions were funny.


Compromising Positions

How much fund-raising does a lobbyist have to do for an elected city official before the public sees the official as compromised?

In Los Angeles--where an elaborate campaign finance system, complete with tight contribution limits and public financing for those that obey them--that’s the question at the center of a dispute between the city’s ethics czar and the City Council’s top advisor.

The city Ethics Commission recommended that City Council members be required to recuse themselves from any action involving a lobbyist who has made or delivered $1,000 in contributions to the elected official in the previous 12 months. The elected official also would have to avoid acting when a lobbyist conducts fund-raising for the official.

Chief Legislative Analyst Ron Deaton, the council’s top advisor, calls the new rules “overly restrictive.”

Deaton has suggested that the council require elected officials to recuse themselves only if a lobbyist has made or delivered contributions of more than $7,000 to the official, or if a lobbyist conducts fund-raising that brings in $15,000 for a council member and $25,000 for the mayor.

LeeAnn Pelham, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said setting the threshold at $15,000 does not make sense when the city limits individual contributions in council races to $500.

“That seems ridiculous,” Pelham said of Deaton’s proposal. “It seems far too high when you consider the average contribution in a city election is $250.”


Dumping on Dianne

There are a few things politicians probably want to avoid in life, and apparently challenging the water held by folks in the Imperial Valley, who occupy California’s arid southeast corner, is one of them.

Just ask Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

She suggested in a letter that the Imperial Irrigation District take some land out of agricultural production to bank water for San Diego County or risk losing water rights without compensation.

That drew a nasty comment from district director Bruce Kuhn, made during an interview with the Imperial Valley Press.

“The federal government may make a grab for the water but they’re not going to do it without getting [sued],” Kuhn said. “I would expect nothing less from Feinstein, being the bureaucratic gasbag, pig-eyed sack of crap that she is. They will not take the water without a long protracted legal battle.”

Is that any way to talk about California’s senior senator and a rumored presidential candidate?

Kuhn later wrote a letter to the paper apologizing for his choice of words but not the sentiment behind them.


High-Anxiety Policy

Ventura County supervisors entered unfamiliar territory last week as they debated guidelines on the use of medicinal marijuana.

Law enforcement officials suggested a policy that allows medicinal users to possess six plants or one pound of dried pot. But supervisors weren’t sure if that was too little or not enough.

“Does one plant give us a pound--or does it give us an ounce? That’s what we need to know,” said Supervisor Steve Bennett of Ventura.

Supervisors decided to get more information from the county’s public health officer, a farm advisor and the people who best know a thing or two about growing weed--the medicinal users.

Lisa Schwarz, who has a doctor’s prescription to smoke marijuana for chronic pain, thanked the board for including people like her. Schwarz contends six plants is not enough for the average patient.

“It is difficult and tedious to grow,” she said.

Supervisor Kathy Long said a policy is long past due. Proposition 215, which legalized marijuana for medicinal use, was approved by state voters in 1996.

“As difficult as it is for those who voted no, it is now the law,” the Camarillo supervisor said.


Hahn, You’re No Hahn

Former Santa Clarita Mayor Carl Boyer recently offered an unflattering comparison between current Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn and his late father, former county Supervisor Kenneth Hahn.

Boyer, who headed a committee that won cityhood for Santa Clarita in the mid-’80s, juxtaposed them during a recent public meeting on San Fernando Valley secession, which Hahn unsuccessfully sought to keep off the Nov. 5 ballot.

“By contrast, his father, Kenny Hahn, got out of his sickbed for the first time in eight months to cast the deciding vote to put Santa Clarita on the ballot promptly,” Boyer recalled.

Then again, Kenny Hahn did not face the dubious distinction of being the mayor of a city threatened with being broken apart.


Points Taken

* Rodney Dangerfield, the comedian with the catch phrase “I get no respect,” will get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but not before a little dissing. The Los Angeles City Council vote to authorize the star was 13 to 2. Councilmen Eric Garcetti and Jack Weiss voted against Dangerfield in a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment of the comedian’s claim to fame. “I thought at least a couple of us should vote against it to make sure he gets no respect,” Garcetti said.

* The Los Angeles City Council agreed last week to spend $10,000 to offer tattoo removal services at a local hospital. The vote was taken moments after the council approved a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for British rock star Ozzy Osbourne, who has more tattoos than an Australian sailor.

* Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon gave a speech to the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation at the Jonathan Club last week, but reporters were asked not to say in their stories where the event was held. “Those are their rules. That was a condition of us going there,” said one Simon aide, who passed the request on to reporters, some of whom agreed to it. The club has long shunned publicity, even before it opened its membership to women in 1987 following picketing.


Quotable Quote

“They are the best duo since Hope and Crosby, Shaq and Kobe.”

--Political strategist Bill Carrick on the teaming of former political foes Mayor James K. Hahn and former Mayor Richard Riordan as the lead opponents of secession.


Connecting the Dots

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), House minority whip, addresses reporters after a joint meeting of the House and Senate intelligence committees in Washington on Tuesday. The panels, meeting behind closed doors, are seeking to determine what U.S. authorities knew and didn’t know before the Sept. 11 attacks, and why. Pelosi, with, from left, Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), has said: “People talk a great deal about connecting the dots. Well, they didn’t even see the dots. They don’t understand the salience of the dots.”


Jean O. Pasco, Jenifer Warren and Catherine Saillant contributed to this week’s column. Columnist Patt Morrison is on assignment.