Jeff appeal, tax issues to test mayor’s rapport with council
For City Hall watchers, the next few weeks promise to be a harmonic convergence of politics and policy. But not in the “Kumbaya” kind of way. And they will serve as a test for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa – coming off a summer of scandal at the midpoint of his first term and as the City Council seeks to flex its independence and shed the image of being a rubber stamp. The most dramatic issue is expected to be the appeal by fired Transportation Chief Gloria Jeff, who has hired high-profile attorney Gloria Allred to represent her. If the past offers any foreshadowing, Jeff can expect city officials to offer her a consulting contract – much as they did to former Animal Services Chief Guerdon Stuckey when he appealed his firing. More than a few council members said they were upset with the last-minute “urgency” on a telephone tax. Take Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who has been publicly pitching a parcel tax estimated at $30 to $40 to pay for gang-prevention programs. Apparently the mayor neglected to call and warn her of his decision until minutes before the council meeting last Wednesday, when the council voted to draft the ballot language for the telephone tax measure. Hahn has since decided to postpone her tax proposal. The city might as well declare Oct. 25 Bill Bratton Day. That’s when the Los Angeles Police Department chief will take the oath of office for his second, five-year term, and city officials are pulling out all the stops to honor him. With color guards and the LAPD band at 8:30 a.m. ceremonies at the Police Academy, city officials, officers and guests will witness the oath of office and hear from Villaraigosa, police commissioners and Bratton on all that he has accomplished and all that he wants to do. Events honoring Bratton throughout the day will conclude with a private reception at the Brentwood home of former Police Commission President Rick Caruso. Caruso, developer of The Grove and other shopping centers, is often mentioned as a potential future candidate for mayor. Caruso has invited 300 to 400 people to his home to honor Bratton and Bratton’s wife, Rikki Klieman. Among invited guests are a host of celebrities and political stars, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Hell hath no fury like a politician witnessing change to his legislation. Last week, Councilman Tony C rdenas became the latest to voice his frustration at a meeting of the ad hoc Committee on Gangs and Youth Violence. Told that the state will not provide full funding for the Schiff-C rdenas anti-gang legislation approved some years ago when he served in the state Assembly, the Valley councilman voiced his displeasure. “I’m not an anarchist or anything like that,” C rdenas said. “I only hold one office at a time. But I am contemplating leaving this job and returning to the state Legislature. I’m not leaving anytime soon, but I am considering taking action to prevent the bastardization of my legislation.” Another lesson for political reformers: No matter how much you try to limit the influence of money in politics, it finds a way in. Consider Proposition 34, which was approved by voters last year and was designed to limit donations to state officials to $22,300. The Sacramento Bee looked at contributions and found that, instead of the money going directly to officials, it is simply now being given to and funneled from the state Democratic and Republican parties. Bob Stern of the Center for Governmental Studies noted: “No longer can you give unlimited amounts to the candidates, so the message is that the parties are the main way to support candidates. The parties have done very well under Proposition 34.” Staff writer Kerry Cavanaugh contributed to this report. [email protected] (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The fact that both Stuckey and Jeff are African-American is expected to highlight racial issues. There is fear in the African-American community that Villaraigosa has no long-range plan for promoting blacks to major positions – even though he has replaced Jeff with Rita Robinson, who is African-American. “The question a lot of us have, however, is what happens when these folks retire in a couple of years,” Councilwoman Jan Perry said. “We want to know the long-range plans of the mayor.” Aides to Villaraigosa insist that he does not consider race during his hirings and that his record shows his support of qualified African-Americans. Three of his last promotions to department heads went to African-Americans. Other issues expected to test the mayor include his call to put a 9 percent telephone users’ tax on the Feb. 5 ballot – for which he will need unanimous council support – and a proposed double whammy of hikes to both water and power rates. If last week was any indication, the mayor and his staff are stumbling in initial efforts to get support.