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12 People Who Make Things Happen in Valley

James Acevedo Principal Acevedo Group Look behind the emerging Latino political base in Los Angeles and it won’t be long before you hear the name James Acevedo. Acevedo has helped to run the campaigns of Los Angeles councilmen Alex Padilla and Tony Cardenas and now state Sen. Richard Alarcon, to name a few. He also helped to elect Mayor James Hahn in the last mayoral race, a decision that pitted him against some of the very same people Acevedo also helped to elect. Thanks to his political juice and a make-no-bones-about-it style, controversy has followed Acevedo even now as he backs away from politics to focus on his position on the harbor commission and his real estate development companies. “The dirt on James Acevedo is he’s a kingmaker,” whispered a Northeast San Fernando Valley executive who did not want to be identified. Coming up in politics, Acevedo rallied behind the city’s mainstream and white democratic base and parlayed his contacts into political muscle to help elect the first Hispanic city councilman, Richard Alarcon. He went on to run campaigns for Padilla and Cardenas, but, despite his long held allegiance to the Latino community, backed Hahn in the last election instead of the Latino candidate, Antonio Villaraigosa. Acevedo made no excuses for his decision he felt Hahn was a better candidate for the Latino community. But others were not so understanding. “There are a lot of rivalries in Hispanic politics,” said David J. De Pinto, a partner at De Pinto Morales Communications Inc. in Sunland. “The Alarcon, Cardenas, Padilla camps have been on opposite sides. They were friends early on.” Rivalries such as these are sometimes patched back up for the sake of political expediency when the winds turn, but Acevedo has never followed the prevailing political wind. He turned a cold shoulder to the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley and the Valley Economic Development Center after the Northridge Earthquake, he says, because he didn’t believe the groups had the interests of the Latino community at heart. And if he makes no apologies for the way he plays politics, he also concedes that such decisions, often delivered with surprising candor, have shaped his reputation. “People tend to brand you negatively when you say I think you’re wrong,” said Acevedo. “That’s when people say I think these are terrible guys. They’re not just putting their sombreros over their faces.” It is just such straight talk that has created the innuendo that surrounds Acevedo, his supporters say. “James is someone that believes in the Latino community, and believes in Latino elected officials,” said Roberto Barragan, president of the Valley Economic Development Center. “He has been controversial because his passion has led him to be brusque about what he wants done. But I think he has good intentions.” Shelly Garcia Lee Kanon Alpert Partner Alpert & Barr When now City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo was running for office against former City Councilman Michael Feuer, the odds were on Feuer. The former councilman, after all, was being termed out of a city office serving in a district that included Sherman Oaks, Encino, and West L.A., the kinds of neighborhoods that can give a city official significant exposure. Delgadillo, on the other hand, had been a deputy to former Mayor Richard Riordan, so it was something of an upset when he beat Feuer in the race. With his political clout and connections, Lee Kanon Alpert, a partner at Alpert & Barr in Encino, could have thrown his support behind Feuer, and it would have been the safer bet. But he didn’t. “One of the things you need to decide as an individual is do you put yourself out there and do you take the risk and support the people you really feel will do the best job,” said Alpert. “I felt Rocky would do an incredible job as a city attorney.” Alpert worked diligently on behalf of Delgadillo, getting him out in front of the San Fernando Valley community and its policy makers. And his efforts held a great deal of sway. “Lee is very politically connected,” said James Felton, a fellow attorney and partner at Greenberg & Bass. “I don’t know how many times I get an invitation to one of these campaign events, and Lee is either the chair, the co-chair or the host.” Alpert, whose practice areas include business and corporate law, administrative and government relations and arbitration and mediation, has a long history of activism in the San Fernando Valley. He served as chair of the governing board of directors of the Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Centers, he is a board member of Genesis L.A. and the Valley Economic Development Center. He has served on both the airport and the building and safety commissions and he is past president of the city’s first Commission on Neighborhood Councils, playing a key role in designing the councils. But if Alpert has achieved prominence in mainstream politics, he has not always wielded that influence like many of his counterparts. Alpert refuses to throw either political or financial support behind two candidates running for office, choosing to take a stand rather than hedge his bets. “When I support someone, there’s reasons and the reason isn’t just because they’re going to get elected,” said Alpert. Too many of us do that and what ends up happening is too many people you don’t want get elected. So if you want change, you need to stand up and say, here’s what I think.” Shelly Garcia Mary Benson Trails Committee Chair Foothills Trails District Neighborhood Council Mary Benson may be new to the activist lifestyle, but she has adapted to it well. In June of 2002 an article in the local newspaper alerted her to the Army Corps of Engineers’ practice of using the Hansen Dam lakes as a dumping ground for construction debris. Since then, her work with local group Tujunga Watershed has brought the practice to light and prompted the city council to order the debris removed. Benson is a third generation resident of Sunland-Tujunga who has made the protection of local environment her mission, and used a keen sense of detail to hammer out compromises with developers. In addition to her work with Tujunga Watershed, she’s also active in the Foothills Trails District Neighborhood Council “It’s an activism approach that is looking at the proposed plans and, because I am such a longtime resident, knowing which developments are most likely to severely affect or change the natural area and then speaking out on those projects and making my personal recommendations,” Benson said. Benson, who lives in the city’s second district, said that Councilwoman Wendy Greuel has taken an active interest in making sure that developers care for the environment. “One of the benefits we’ve seen from the councilmember being involved is being able to access developers early enough in the process that they can integrate environmental concerns before they begin the process,” Benson said. “They’re much more cooperative when there’s not a financial penalty involved.” Steve Crouch, who also works with the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council, said that Benson is well known as “one of the people who takes time to go down (to city hall) to learn the facts, get reports from the government and talk to leaders.” As a member of the Tujunga Watershed, she’s also been able to protect a certain portion of the Hansen Dam lakes by having them declared a protected habitat for endangered species. Jonathan D. Colburn Don Fleming Owner Valencia Acura It takes Don Fleming a few minutes before he can stop naming the charities that he supports, either directly or indirectly, in the Santa Clarita Valley. Since moving from Texas eight years ago and opening Valencia Acura, Fleming and his wife Cheri have become synonymous with charitable giving. This year he will help put on the 6th annual Crawford-Fleming Breast Cancer Awareness Golf Invitational, raising money for the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center. Fleming and his wife both saw parents and friends die from cancer, and he places this highest on his list of charitable priorities. “If you take money out of the city, you are obligated to give some of it back to the community,” Fleming said. Donations go to the senior center, local high school football teams and bands, the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital and to feeding needy families at Thanksgiving. Jeff Lambert, former director of planning for the city of Santa Clarita said that Fleming has been instrumental in rallying other dealerships in the city to local causes. “Not only do they raise significant sales tax as individual dealers, as an organization they do a lot of events for charities,” Lambert said. Fleming is the president of the Santa Clarita Valley Auto Dealers Associations, which as a group, donates approximately $200,000 per year to local groups. Fleming said that when he took the reins, the amount was “nowhere near what it is now.” Fleming added that each dealership also makes individual contributions to other charities, and that he’s seen those contributions go up every year since he’s lived in the city. Fleming laughs when he tries to pinpoint a reason for the rise in donations. “I don’t know if it’s that, but we’re just not bashful about asking,” he said. Jonathan D. Colburn Marlene Grossman Executive Director Pacoima Beautiful Since 1995, Pacoima Beautiful has been working to make the community a safer place for all of its residents to live. Its community inspectors identify, report and follow up on environmental problems. The group rallies youth activists to local projects and commands an annual budget of $475,000. However, the organization wouldn’t be where it is today without the help of Marlene Grossman. Grossman, who has a degree in urban planning and has served on city boards and commissions, helped a handful of women desperate to improve their neighborhoods get in touch with powerful and resourceful people in the city. “I was more or less the coach,” Grossman said. “I would lend whatever ears and contacts that I had, to be able to support the work the community residents were doing.” “If they don’t know people or where to go, I’ll figure it out.” L.A. City Councilman Alex Padilla, who has lived in Pacoima all of his life, said Grossman’s effect on the community has been drastic. “There’s clearly a tremendous improved awareness about environmental issues and environmental justice issues surrounding Pacoima,” Padilla said. “She’s been able to bring that thinking to Pacoima, not necessarily to dictate policy or positions.” While working with people is her passion, these days Grossman finds herself spending much of her time seeking support from foundations, corporations and individuals. The group is supported by the California Wellness Foundation, the Alliance for Healthy Homes and several others. This is not to say she’s giving up on the exciting stuff, however. Grossman and Pacoima Beautiful’s upcoming projects will include tackling environmental problems at the former Price Pfister plant sitting on 25 acres that will likely be turned into a retail complex. The group has also enlisted the help of some local high school students who are working with the city of San Fernando to turn the Pacoima Wash into a recreation area. Jonathan D. Colburn Dr. Jack W. Hayford Founding Pastor The Church on the Way Spend any time in almost any gathering in the San Fernando Valley and you are likely to run into a member of The Church on the Way in Van Nuys. The church’s more than 12,000 active members place The Church on the Way among the 10 largest congregations in the nation. That is due largely to its founding pastor, Dr. Jack W. Hayford, who first took a temporary assignment at the church in 1969 when it had just 18 members. Since then, Church on the Way has grown to include two campuses in Van Nuys and one in Santa Clarita, radio and television programs, The King’s College & Seminary and Los Angeles Community Builders Inc., a social service arm that works to assist communities and youth. The church’s Spanish-language congregation, La Iglesia en El Camino, is the largest Latino congregation in L.A. “Church on the Way has been very active in the community,” said Barry Smedberg, president of the San Fernando Valley Interfaith Council. “They go out to the parks and do food programs. They’ve hosted meetings with the Los Angeles Police Department in addressing the whole issue of gang and youth crime.” Hayford, who has most recently focused his efforts on the King’s College & Seminary and earlier this month was confirmed as president of the International Church of the Four Square Gospel, the parent entity of TCOTW that includes 48,000 churches and counts some 5 million members worldwide, was traveling and unavailable for comment. Through a spokesman, he attributed the growth of The Church on the Way, as might be expected, to God. But the church has also put much emphasis on reaching out to the community. Church on the Way has an Iranian congregation, a Japanese congregation and a Filipino congregation, each of which holds its own services in its native languages. The church is also home to a Jewish congregation that does not have its own facility for worship. In addition to its Los Angeles Community Builders Inc. unit, which works in the areas of crime, housing and youth programs, The Church on the Way also participates in city events, lending its facilities for various events and community meetings. Shelly Garcia Bob Hertzberg Partner Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Mawe When Bob Hertzberg first entered public office in 1996, he had plenty of opportunity to hear talk about improving public transportation in the Valley, but didn’t see much progress. “I just said to myself, ‘I’m not leaving public office until the transportation issue is settled, period, end of issue,'” Hertzberg said. He said that he persuaded the governor to include money, $145 million in 2003 for the Orange Line busway in the budget. “The governor was talking about a transportation plan for the state, I said that if you’re talking about a transportation plan for the state you’ve got to include the San Fernando Valley,” Hertzberg said. The reaction was swift “It was done,” Hertzberg said. The result is a 14-mile route connecting Warner Center to the North Hollywood Metro Rail Station, scheduled to open this coming August. Since leaving public office in 2002, Hertzberg has brought new business to Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Mawe, LLP, but Hertzberg said it’s not his government contacts that are bringing in business. He said that 20 years of private practice before entering politics allowed to him to develop relationships with a number of Valley figures. Hertzberg went to Brazil with then Mayor Riordan and county supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky to evaluate a public transportation project and develop ideas for the Orange Line. “I couldn’t let the budget pass unless we agreed to the money,” Hertzberg said. He said he has been able to motivate those in positions of power to complete other projects in the Valley as well. “If you lived in the San Fernando Valley before Hertzberg there were no sound walls south of Roscoe,” he said. Hertzberg said that he worked to install $10 million in sound walls throughout Valley freeways, including the San Diego (405) Freeway. Jonathan D. Colburn Ron Kaye Managing Editor Daily News of Los Angeles Ron Kaye doesn’t want to talk to the Business Journal he says he’s not comfortable with the idea and, after all, the newspaper competes with his in some ways. It might be the first time the managing editor of the Daily News of Los Angeles has demurred when asked for his comments. Kaye’s voice, heard in the newspaper’s sometimes incendiary headlines and on its editorial pages, has proven to be a force to be reckoned with, say those whose livelihoods are tied closely to the media. “My clients are very aware of what the newspaper has to say,” said David J. De Pinto, a partner at De Pinto Morales Communications Inc., public relations consultants in Sunland who work with several clients that have found themselves on the wrong side of Kaye’s pen. “My clients seek him out.” A self-described watchdog for the San Fernando Valley’s middle class, Kaye has taken staunch positions on issues ranging from land use to the Los Angeles Unified School District. “We’ve been at war against the middle-class in this town for a generation,” Kaye said in an interview with The Planning Report, a policy newsletter, in June, 2002, “yet the middle class is what the poor people aspire to, and should be supported in getting to. We’re becoming a city of rich and poor, and we have to reverse that to build the kind of city that has real health, becomes safer and has better schools.” Perhaps the newspaper’s most relentless stand came with the secession movement. Though often criticized for biased coverage, Kaye insisted that his editorials and the newspaper’s coverage was not pro-secession, but simply an attempt to encourage both the debate and the responsiveness of city government. “Frankly, I’ve always said that NIMBYism is a sane response to a government that’s trampling on your interests,” Kaye said in the same interview. Not one to mince words in his staunch defense of neighborhoods and the middle-classes that inhabit them, Kaye has often been at loggerheads with the business community as well as City Hall. But if business has not always liked what Kaye had to say, it has also been keenly aware of the paper’s ability to influence opinion. “Ron Kaye tells it like it is no holds barred,” said Jill Banks Barad, whose consulting firm Jill Barad & Associates, handles public relations, fundraising and political consulting. “When I read the Daily News I run to the op-ed page, and I can always tell when it’s his. He won’t let the bureaucracy and people who are full of themselves get away with it.” Shelly Garcia Angelo Mozilo Chairman and CEO Countrywide Financial Corp. Angelo Mozilo built Countrywide Financial Corp., the company that he also founded, into an $8 billion powerhouse. But it is the way in which he has used that stature that distinguishes the chairman and CEO of one of the greater San Fernando Valley’s largest companies. Not long ago, amid a clamor for change in what many consider to be among the most onerous of business climates in the nation, Mozilo made a simple statement. Countrywide, which has been growing at a breakneck pace, would not expand further in California, he said, because of the state’s anti-business policies. “For the first time there’s a business man who will speak up and tell it like it is,” said Bruce Ackerman, president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley. Characteristic of his tendency to pick and choose his platforms, Mozilo was not available to be interviewed by the Business Journal. One of the company’s cadre of press officials said that by policy, Mozilo does not speak publicly during several weeks prior to the company’s earnings releases. Along with such notable business leaders as KB Home’s Bruce Karatz, PG & E;’s Robert Glynn Jr. and Cushman & Wakefield’s John C. Cushman III, Mozilo serves on the California Commission for Jobs & Economic Growth, a statewide group that seeks to attract and retain businesses. But Mozilo has made his displeasure with the business climate in California clear in deed as well as in word. Several years ago he began moving Countrywide’s operations into Texas. “The fact is that we are on the forefront of keeping the anti-business climate before the public,” said Rick Simon, a spokesman for the company. Bronx, New York-born Mozilo took a job as a messenger for a New York mortgage company at the age of 14. By 30, he had founded his own company, a small L.A. office that gave rise to the current diversified financial services firm. The recipient of numerous awards for philanthropic and charitable works, Mozilo is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the Albert Schweitzer Award for his work with youth. Although much of Countrywide’s presence is played out on a regional, if not national stage, the company has also been a prime contributor to the Thousand Oaks Civic Center. Shelly Garcia Brad M. Rosenheim Principal Rosenheim and Associates Ask anyone about a land use issue, new development or change in the business or political landscape of the West San Fernando Valley and you will likely be directed to Brad Rosenheim. After about a decade working on behalf of developers and other businesses, Rosenheim, whose Warner Center-based company Rosenheim & Associates, consults in areas including land use, project management and government and community affairs, among others, knows just about all the players in the area, and he is usually up on the status of the active projects, even if he has no role in them. Others say that Rosenheim, in part, wields authority because he can quote chapter and verse from the Warner Center Specific Plan which governs just about every facet of the area’s development. He also has a long history of working with many of the political and community leaders in the area. But Rosenheim’s currency is more than contacts and information. Unlike some power brokers who are formidable because of their affiliation with either business or community interests, Rosenheim’s influence extends to both sides of an issue. “He just has a much bigger perspective,” said Tim Regan, vice president of development and acquisitions at Voit Co. in Warner Center. “Brad looks at it as a much bigger picture.” Consider a recent issue in which Rosenheim has been active the development of about 2,500 new residential units in Warner Center. Concerned that the planned developments will strain the resources of the community and bring congestion and overcrowding, the Woodland Hills/Warner Center Neighborhood Council threatened to seek a moratorium on new building. Rosenheim, who himself represents several of the developers involved, could have fallen back on the Warner Center Specific Plan, which allows for all those housing units and more. Instead, he has been instrumental in developing a compromise that meets the interest of both sides. And in large part due to his efforts, the neighborhood council has drafted a proposal that would require developers to undergo a more stringent environmental analysis before moving ahead with new housing developments. Rosenheim says he deals with each of the constituencies involved in an issue in the same way. “At the very least people know that I’m going to be honest with them,” Rosenheim said. “They know I’m telling them the truth, and they’re dealing from a base line that is based on fact, not fiction. That’s crucial. Sometimes the opponents don’t feel any compunction to deal honestly, but what I found is the reality of the situation usually wins out, because that’s what the ultimate decisions are based on.” Shelly Garcia Harold Schulweis Rabbi Valley Beth Shalom Harold Schulweis remembers giving the sermon 10 years ago, it was one of the most controversial he’d ever delivered as Rabbi at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino. “I decided to speak with the congregation about the need to change the relationship with homosexuals and lesbians,” Schulweis said. He was preaching a more compassionate sensibility, it was “an attitude different from the one they had read in the Bible.” The reaction was different from the one he expected, however. Schulweis found that his congregation responded very positively to his message. “It was important for them to hear, because there was a great deal of misunderstanding and a lot of bias,” Schulweis said. Since then, Schulweis has made more of an effort to address contemporary social problems in his sermons. He says they can be a bit “on the edge.” Recently, he has been instrumental in creating the Jewish World Watch, in which members of his congregation and others can educate themselves about global tragedies, such as the killings in Darfur in the Sudan, and raise their voices in protest. Schulweis said he is hoping to get his congregation to think of Judaism and the concept of globalization, and to understand their faith as a “world religion,” with global responsibilities. Barry Smedberg, president of the San Fernando Valley Interfaith Council, said that Schulweis’ influence is felt throughout the community. “He is a very renowned Jewish leader. He’s been there a long time,” Smedberg said. “He’s done a lot of stuff for Valley Interfaith, he’s very open minded. Sometimes this can be controversial for conservative Jews.” Valley Beth Shalom has grown from a small congregation to 800 families, and Schulweis said that he knew he had influence within those four walls, but didn’t know whether it extended beyond his congregation. He said he’s happy to know that he has made an impact beyond his synagogue, however. Jonathan D. Colburn Connie Worden-Roberts Transportation Activist Santa Clarita Connie Worden-Roberts is the definition of a Santa Clarita insider. She’s lived in the city for more than 30 years, helped planned the city’s formation and was its first spokeswoman. For the last 20 years, she’s been on the board of the chamber of commerce and the industry association. But Worden-Roberts is best known for the work she’s done in ensuring that state and federal officials don’t forget the Santa Clarita Valley when earmarking funds for road improvements and construction, which she says are crucial to the valley’s future. “The Santa Clarita Valley is going to grow approximately 150 percent more in the next 25 years, which takes our valley from 200,000 people to about 500,000,” said Worden-Roberts. As chairperson of the Santa Clarita Valley Transportation Alliance she pushed for approval of the cross valley connector joining state Routes 14 and 126. Worden-Roberts considers the construction of that road, which is scheduled to be complete by 2007, one of her greatest accomplishments. “The prior city manager didn’t want it,” she said. “The majority of the city council did, and it has been the number one priority for the city of Santa Clarita over the last two years.” Worden-Roberts credited US Congressman Buck McKeon with securing federal money for Santa Clarita Valley road improvements. She’s been in a position to get McKeon’s attention since the two of them served on the local school board 20 years ago. She was also called to testify before the U.S. Congress Transportation Committee to garner further financial support for the cross valley connector. Gail Ortiz, public information officer for Santa Clarita, said that Worden-Roberts is known as the “resident expert in the area of transportation.” “She has a great deal of knowledge and background,” she said. Ortiz said Worden-Roberts is adept at “putting pressure on people to get funding, she’s definitely one who does whatever it takes.” Jonathan D. Colburn People of Influence The following list was derived from surveying the business, civic and political communities. All of the names that appear here qualified as power brokers, individuals that exert a great deal of influence in the San Fernando Valley. However, the Business Journal chose to profile those individuals that might not be familiar to many of our readers. James Acevedo Principal Acevedo Group Lee Kanon Alpert Partner Alpert & Barr Mary Benson Trails Committee Chair Foothills Trails District Neighborhood Council Bert Boeckmann Owner Galpin Motors Rick Caruso President Caruso Affiliated Holdings Richard Close President Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association Neal Dudovitz Executive Director Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County Don Fleming Owner Valencia Acura David Fleming Of Counsel Latham & Watkins Ricky Gelb General Partner Gelb Enterprises Marlene Grossman Executive Director Pacoima Beautiful Dr. Jack W. Hayford Founding Pastor The Church on the Way Bob Hertzberg Partner Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Mawe Ron Kaye Managing Editor Daily News of Los Angeles Edward L. Masry Partner Masry & Vititoe Angelo Mozilo Chairman & CEO Countrywide Financial Corp. Connie Worden-Roberts Transportation Activist Santa Clarita Brad M. Rosenheim Principal Rosenheim & Associates Harold Schulweis Rabbi Valley Beth Shalom Ronald N. Tutor President Tutor-Saliba Corp

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