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Thursday, Jun 8, 2023

‘Two Pleas in a Pod’

We’re about to have the first mayor of Los Angeles from the San Fernando Valley since Sam Yorty…and that was four decades ago. For a dozen years, from 1961 through 1973, Mayor Sam was the chief executive of a city on its way to becoming a megalopolis. Eventually giving way to Tom Bradley in one of the bitterest mayoral campaigns in Los Angeles history, he retired and died, at 88, in his hilltop Studio City home. So will our next mayor be Eric Garcetti or Wendy Grueul? And which one is better for the Valley business community? Their approaches to government are so similar, in a way it’s like the recently concluded Berman-Sherman (or if you prefer, Sherman-Berman) money-gulping contest: very little of real substance seems to separate one from the other. Both candidates have inundated us with pleas for money, endorsements and votes; in fact, they are as nearly alike as two pleas in a pod. They both emphasize their Valley roots. Eric Garcetti touts his Valley upbringing, even running a radio spot painting an idyllic picture of his Ozzie and Harriet Nelson-like childhood, replete with Little League baseball games and a drive home in the family woodie. And, he tells us, if he was really, really good, they’d stop for a post-game soft-serve ice cream cone at Carvel. And this pastoral upbringing makes him a good mayoral candidate why? Wendy Greuel also heralds her San Fernando Valley background; she attended Granada Hills’ Knollwood Elementary School and John F. Kennedy High School. Her parents’ building supply business in North Hollywood is still owned and operated by her family. There is, however, no confirmed record of Wendy patronizing any Carvel Ice Cream parlor. She trumpets her success as controller in combating “waste, fraud and abuse” almost as if it’s one word. What would happen if she changed the order, just for variety? “Abuse, fraud and waste” sounds just as good and has the virtue of being alphabetical. They are both basically liberal politicians (we’d call them Democrats, but this is a non-partisan race) who have exhibited a pro-business attitude. Think Bob Hertzberg Lite. If you have worked with either of them on business tax reduction, city employee pensions, or just trying to get a permit approved through the city’s labyrinthine processes, you would have found both of them to be approachable, friendly, good listeners, dedicated and helpful. But wouldn’t it be nice if they focused on what they’re going to do to address the challenges and opportunities in this city rather than what a terrible person the other candidate is? Of course, that negative approach taints nearly every campaign, so why should this one be different. Perhaps that’s why only 21 percent of registered voters bothered to cast ballots in the primary election. Or perhaps it’s because neither candidate has put forth a comprehensive plan to address the city’s challenges. In November 2006, Los Angeles residents passed a term-limits extension, Proposition R, by an overwhelming 59.5 percent of the vote. It provided for City Council members to run for a third term, one more than they had previously been allowed. One of the promises made by those in favor of the proposition (prominently, of course, Council members who would otherwise have been termed out) was that they would work with the mayor to come up with a strategic plan for the city. They still haven’t. Maybe the next mayor will. Or even better why can’t he or she give us an outline of their strategic vision right now? It would certainly assist the voters in making the best choice. Los Angeles – and the Valley – are replete with problems: an unsustainable city budget; vehicle-threatening potholes and other infrastructure deficiencies; zoning ordinances made to be ignored; simmering racial issues; traffic and transportation problems approaching gridlock; increasing emergency response times; and a reputation for business-unfriendliness second only to the state of California. But at least both of them know their way around the Valley, unlike Mayor Jim Hahn, who was never quite sure that life existed north of Mulholland. Truth is, if you had met Eric or Wendy (no one calls them by their last names), you’ll like that person; they are both genuinely nice people. And if you have spent time working with either one, you would most likely wind up voting for him or her for mayor. Perhaps that’s as good a way to pick a mayor as any. The election of either one is not likely to spell either boom or gloom for those of us in business North of Mulholland. But sadly, if Garcetti wins, he won’t be able to celebrate with a soft-serve from Carvel…there aren’t any left in the Valley. Martin Cooper is chairman of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association Board of Governors and principal of Cooper Communications Inc. in Encino.

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