Even as a rainstorm pummeled Los Angeles City Hall last week, a political tempest was brewing inside over a proposal to extend a contract with the politically connected operators of the L.A. Marathon by five years, to 2015.
The skids appeared greased for an extension with Los Angeles Marathon Inc. until Councilman Tony Cardenas hit the brakes, raising questions about why the for-profit event needs an annual $550,000 city subsidy.
“I find it very surprising we can’t move toward at least the break-even point,” Cardenas complained last week during a hearing by the council’s Budget and Finance Committee. “Why should we bear that burden?”
Councilman Bernard C. Parks, chairman of the council panel, said the subsidy, which is now $680,000 each year, is no big deal because the marathon operators estimate the race injects more than $60 million into the city’s economy.
“I have a little different view than Mr. Cardenas,” Parks said. “In my judgment, we get it back about 15 times in revenue coming into the city.”
Records show that Parks’ campaign for mayor has received $12,000 in the last three months from three executives of the marathon, including the president, William Burke. Burke’s wife, county Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, has endorsed Parks. Parks signed the council motion asking that the extension be considered.
Currently, the city receives $120,000 annually to cover the costs of policing the race, closing streets and directing traffic, even though the city’s total costs last year were nearly $800,000.
Parks said the firm wants an extension so it can negotiate a better television deal for the race, and has offered to boost its payment to the city by $21,661 a year until it hits $250,000.
Cardenas suggested that the city might do better to require the current operator to bid for the marathon against competing firms when the contract ends in 2010. The dispute was put off for two weeks to allow each side time to gather more ammunition.
Available on Cable TV
For those who haven’t had time to attend any of the dozen-plus Los Angeles mayoral debates, there are other ways of hearing from the candidates on the issues of the day.
Subscribers to Time Warner Cable can access about a dozen candidate statements through Video on Demand.
The statements are available at no charge to all Time Warner Cable digital TV customers throughout Los Angeles.
At the same time, the Los Angeles Conservancy has released a “virtual mayoral candidates’ forum” -- a special online publication with in-depth interviews with all five major mayoral candidates, addressing issues including historic preservation.
Their positions can be found at www.laconservancy.org.
Some GOP Legislators
Get Lessons on Spanish
For the last five weeks, a dozen Assembly Republicans have been meeting in the state Capitol at 7:30 a.m. Thursdays to learn such niceties in Spanish as “Enjoy your dinner,” “Good morning, my name is
They also are learning proper greetings and which last name to use when sending mail to their Latino constituents.
The sessions, taught by Nancy Zarenda of the Spanish Language Academy in Sacramento, cost members a couple hundred dollars each -- no taxpayer money involved.
“There are many members that are intimidated because they don’t speak the language,” said Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia (R-Cathedral City), who organized the sessions.
Learning just a few phrases and being willing to use them, she said, can break the ice with constituents and make them feel comfortable.
As the only Latina Republican in the Assembly, Garcia calls herself “the Republican Hispanic Woman’s Caucus” but adds that every other lawmaker is “an associate member.”
In a similar spirit of inclusion, Assemblywoman Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) and Assemblyman Alan Nakanishi (R-Lodi) announced Wednesday that they had kicked down partisan barriers and created a new “Asian Pacific Islander Joint Legislative Caucus” with five Democrats and three Republicans.
The new bipartisan caucus will not replace the old Asian Pacific Islander caucus, which was made up entirely of Democrats, just as the Latino Caucus and Black Caucus have no Republicans.
Of course, one legislative staffer noted, the Black Caucus has not had to wrestle recently with whether to include Republicans. The last black Republican in the Assembly was Frederick Roberts, a Los Angeles mortician, who served from 1916 to 1934.
Group Drops Petition
Drive on Licenses
The organizers of a petition drive to block any new legislation that would allow driver’s licenses for illegal aliens have dropped their effort, saying they fell short of the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.
The group, Save Our License, said it had spent more than $200,000 on paid signature gatherers and distributed more than 350,000 petitions.
“Initiatives are difficult for groups without big special-interest dollars,” the group said in a statement signed by Assemblyman Mark Wyland (R-Escondido), former state Sen. Dick Mountjoy and Mike Spence, a founder of the organization.
Not content to let the failure go by without comment, Edward Headington, communications director for state Sen. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), issued the “Top 10 Reasons Why the Save Our License Initiative Failed.”
The 10th reason: “The vast pro-immigrant conspiracy is just too powerful.”
No. 9: “Recent biblical rain caused too much trailer park damage and dampened recruitment.”
And the No. 1 reason: “Too many visits to Hometown Buffet on the campaign trail made activists lethargic and grumpy.”
* The Academy Awards show isn’t the only event that mixes politics with show business. Wealthy entertainment industry moguls, including Walt Disney President Bob Iger and News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, gathered last week at the Regency Club in Westwood to raise money for the National Republican Congressional Committee and candidates in the 2006 election. Calling themselves the “Entertaining Republicans,” the group’s fundraiser featured a speech by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
* California First Lady Maria Shriver was presented last week with the Champion of the Children Award by former First Lady Nancy Reagan at a ceremony in Beverly Hills. The award was provided by the Colleagues, founded in 1950 to benefit Children’s Institute International with the goal of ending child abuse and neglect. “She’s actively involved in women’s issues, education issues, parenting issues, all while raising four children of her own,” Reagan said of Shriver, according to City News Service. “And, oh yes, she married an actor who became governor of California. I have some understanding of what that means.”
* A recent e-mail announcing one legislator’s plan to help schoolchildren had a subject heading that read: “Senator Carole Migden Rolls Out Bold Eduic ation Reform Package.” Minutes later, the e-mail was sent again, with a spelling correction.
You Can Quote Me
“We have no regard for those who have no regard for us.”
-- Stephan Haah, chairman of the Korean American Political Empowerment Movement, opening a mayoral candidate forum in Koreatown that was attended by four candidates but not Mayor James K. Hahn.
Contributors this week were Times staff writers Jean Merl, Jean O. Pasco and Nancy Vogel.