Challenger accuses LaBonge of mishandling Veterans Day tribute

A Los Feliz man seeking a seat on the Los Angeles City Council accused Councilman Tom LaBonge this week of mishandling a request to put a yellow ribbon on the Hollywood sign in time for Veterans Day.

Apartment owner Tomas O'Grady said LaBonge unfairly turned down a proposal by David Weiss, a former Marine who lives in Newport Beach, to install the ribbon display at a cost of $11,000 to honor U.S. veterans. Veterans Day was Thursday.

Standing with a small group of people holding signs that said "Yellow Ribbon vs. Red Tape," O'Grady said the rejection of the request showed how difficult it is for businesses and other individuals to get a fair hearing from City Hall. Although his campaign spokesman sent an e-mail saying "Military Vets gather to demand recognition and to have yellow ribbon draped on Hollywood sign," O'Grady said he simply wants to change the process for reviewing such requests.

"I'm glad if the ribbon is rejected, as long as it's rejected in a transparent way," he said.

Weiss, 48, said LaBonge reneged on a promise last month to put up the ribbon display, hours after they reached a "handshake" agreement.

LaBonge had a different recollection of their conversation, saying he offered to help Weiss meet with the Hollywood Sign Trust, the organization that reviews requests for displays on the sign.

"I can't give that approval. I think he misunderstood," LaBonge said. "He was a very enthusiastic individual."

LaBonge said he was worried about running afoul of the city's sign laws and felt there was too little time to review Weiss' proposal in time for Veterans Day. He said he offered Weiss a counterproposal that might have met his timeline: placing a ribbon on Los Angeles City Hall, which he described as a "dramatic" building.

Weiss, who served in the Marines from 1981 to 1986, said he did not like that idea.

"I object to it on a number of different levels," said Weiss, standing outside City Hall next to O'Grady. "I appreciated that there was some gesture made, but it was a difficult gesture to maneuver. I'm talking about putting a fabric on a hunk of tin in the middle of the mountains. That is infinitely easier."

LaBonge is running in the March 8 election for a third four-year term, representing a district that includes parts of Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Koreatown and Hollywood. O'Grady, one of five men planning to challenge LaBonge, said he scheduled the news conference to demand that the city's approval process be fair for restaurants and other businesses seeking permits.

"This might look like me jumping on a political bandwagon, but it's anything but," he said.

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