As the controversy over the Americana at Brand progressed from a
whisper to a full-fledged brawl over the past year, Assemblyman Dario
Frommer (D-Glendale) refused to take a stand on the $264.2-million
retail and residential project.
Nothing has changed now that the project will be the subject of a
Sept. 14 citywide vote, forced by a referendum petition circulated by
Glendale Galleria owner General Growth Properties. Frommer still
avoids the Americana debate. But the election will have a distinct
Frommer feel -- General Growth and developer Rick Caruso have hired
Frommer associates to run their election campaigns.
General Growth opposes the Americana, claiming that it will hurt
other downtown businesses, including the Galleria, and that the
$77.1-million public subsidy for the project is too great.
Paul Arney resigned as a Frommer field representative Wednesday to
take over General Growth's campaign. Joe Zago, who ran Frommer's 2000
Assembly victory over Craig Missakian, will run Caruso's campaign.
Zago did not return messages Thursday, and General Growth would
not release contact information for Arney. Arney's last name was
misspelled in a story that appeared in Thursday's News-Press.
"[Frommer] had nothing to do with my decision," Caruso said. "It
was all about somebody who, first and foremost, had enough background
of campaigns, and second, understood the area. That's why there's a
commonality with Frommer."
Caruso said he also hired two people who will focus on convincing
Glendale's Armenian-American community that the Americana is a good
project. About 40% of Glendale's population is of Armenian descent,
and several Armenian-language television hosts, including Vrej
Agajanian and Appo Jabarian, oppose the project.
Frommer, still staying away from the debate, declined to comment.
Councilman Rafi Manoukian described the Americana debate as a local
issue and said that Frommer should not be involved.
But a political expert said Frommer's ties in the Americana
election are indicative of a politician with a deep connection to his
"Dario picks people that are connected in the community that he's
being elected from, so they're seen as people who can have an
effect," said Roger Bowerman, chairman of Glendale Community
College's social sciences division. "While I don't connect Dario or
what he does with the debate here, I see that it reflects the overlap
that there is between the economic powers and the political powers in
state government and local government."
Arney and Zago probably will become public fixtures in Glendale as
the Sept. 14 election creeps closer. Both will run the day-to-day
operations of their respective campaigns, working out of
Glendale-based campaign headquarters.