Downtown Goes Dark for Election-Night Gigs
Downtown Los Angeles may be on a comeback, but it will not be party central, as in past years, for most of the top candidates for mayor as they wait for voting returns in Tuesday’s election.
Four years ago, James K. Hahn and Antonio Villaraigosa held election-night parties downtown, at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Millennium Biltmore Hotel, respectively.
On Tuesday, Mayor Hahn will be at the Conga Room in the Miracle Mile area, Villaraigosa will be at the Henry Fonda Theater in Hollywood, Bob Hertzberg will be at the Airtel Plaza Hotel in Van Nuys and state Sen. Richard Alarcon will be at Cha Cha Cha restaurant in Encino.
Of the major contenders, only City Councilman Bernard C. Parks has scheduled his election-night party for downtown, renting a ballroom at the Biltmore.
Hahn might have spurned the Bonaventure because the hotel’s operator is supporting Villaraigosa this time.
Kam Kuwata, a Hahn spokesman, said it comes down to convenience -- the Conga Room is within six storefronts of Hahn’s campaign office -- and one other factor.
“It’s going to be a ... lot more fun having it at a club,” Kuwata said, promising a conga line after the returns come in.
Marathon Subsidy Issue Causes E-Mail Stampede
The organizers of Sunday’s Los Angeles Marathon have sent their herd of runners thundering after City Councilman Tony Cardenas for suggesting that the city should not have to subsidize the race by $620,000 each year.
In an e-mail sent to thousands of runners and bicyclists who participated in race-related events, the organizers urged supporters to flood Cardenas with e-mails objecting to his position.
“The councilman would like us to raise our registration fee approximately $620,000,” the e-mail said. “That’s not a misprint; we would have to raise the entry fees to cover this amount.”
The campaign resulted in more than 900 e-mails to the councilman’s office, causing an overload that forced the city to install a blocker to prevent a city computer crash.
“Please leave the L.A. Marathon alone,” said one e-mail. “Should I assume you are not a runner?” asked another.
Cardenas wrote an e-mail to automatically respond to those he received, stating that he has an obligation to question the subsidy given a for-profit enterprise such as the marathon.
“It is appropriate that we question everything, no matter how much it inconveniences someone. It is our duty,” Cardenas wrote.
Gift Lists Run Gamut, Sometimes in Triplicate
Many newlyweds get duplicate gifts. Not many get triplicate gifts.
In the statement of economic interests that every lawmaker must file each year by March 1, Assemblyman Dario Frommer (D-Glendale) disclosed receiving as wedding gifts food processors from Assemblyman Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles), state Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres and Democratic political consultant David Townsend.
Assemblyman Simon Salinas (D-Salinas) takes the prize for thoroughness, reporting that he received a $1.25 luggage tag from the American Heart Assn. and six cans of peaches from the California Canning Peach Assn. valued at $10.
At the other end of the gift-giving spectrum, 11 globetrotting lawmakers -- some of them now termed out of the Legislature -- visited Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan last year on “educational” trips arranged by the Assembly and the Senate.
The governments of those countries picked up thousands of dollars in lodging, travel, meal and cultural event costs, though lawmakers were expected to pay for their airfare with campaign or personal funds.
Several other lawmakers -- Nunez, Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D- Van Nuys) and Assemblywoman Carol Liu (D-La Canada-Flintridge) -- learned about Italy’s electricity industry and transportation system firsthand in a November trip paid for by the nonprofit California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy. The foundation’s board is dominated by power company, utility and other corporate interests, and unions.
Perhaps the most unusual gift: blimp rides costing $190 each and given to Assemblyman Russ Bogh (R-Cherry Valley), then-Assemblyman Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga), Assemblyman Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) and Assemblyman John Benoit (R-Palm Desert), paid for by Ameriquest, the nation’s largest high-risk mortgage lender.
State Staffers’ Response Upsets Some PTA Moms
After 25 years of calling elected officials for one cause or another, Diane Levitt knows the drill: You either leave your message on an answering machine set up to take constituents’ comments or talk to a staffer who listens and thanks you for your call.
Imagine the Manhattan Beach resident’s surprise and that of other PTA moms when staffers in the governor’s Constituent Services Office argued with them.
The California State PTA had asked members to observe the venerable organization’s Founders Day by calling to register their unhappiness with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed education budget and his change of mind on a promise to restore money due under Proposition 98, a voter-approved measure that guarantees schools state funds.
Cecelia Mansfield, the organization’s volunteer director of legislation, said she encountered an argumentative staffer when she called and soon began hearing complaints from others with similar experiences.
The callers were told they were misinformed, and some said they got a pitch for the governor’s plans to alter Proposition 98, a move the PTA and other education leaders strongly oppose.
“It’s a scandal,” Levitt said. “The governor is supposed to be listening to what constituents think and instead his office is using this as an opportunity to politic.”
A governor’s spokeswoman said the constituent services office welcomes Californians’ views and offers information only if a caller asks for clarification.
* The Los Angeles mayoral campaign came to the Beverly Hilton last week for the annual American Diabetes Assn. political roast. The five leading candidates pressed the flesh as Sheriff Lee Baca was roasted with the help of visiting Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown and L.A. Mayor James K. Hahn. In return, the sheriff had a short message for the embattled Hahn and for Brown, who has faced criticism of his own up north: “The mayors of Oakland and Los Angeles ought to switch,” Baca said.
* A recent straw poll by the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley at its general assembly found 77.8% supported state Treasurer Phil Angelides as the best Democrat to challenge Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in next year’s election. Film director/activist Rob Reiner placed second with 8.2%, state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer received 5.3%, Berkeley-area Rep. Barbara Lee received 2.3% of the vote, and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein tied L.A. Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, with 1.2% each.
You Can Quote Me
“The senator hinted that if we took the Raiders [football team] back he might be open to some compromise on the bridge.”
-- Brendan Huffman, of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, recounting a tongue-in-cheek proposal by state Sen. Don Perata (D-Oakland) during a meeting with more than 85 L.A. business leaders who voiced opposition to Southern California footing the bill for design changes on the Bay Bridge replacement project.
Contributing this week were Times staff writers Jean Merl, Nancy Vogel and Jean O. Pasco.