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Friday, Aug 12, 2022
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Hertzberg Says He’ll Run L.A. Like a Business

This is the third of five interviews in alphabetical order with the major candidates for mayor of Los Angeles. Robert Hertzberg has managed an impressive round of fundraising since his entry into the Los Angeles mayoral race. He and Eastside Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa were second only to incumbent James K. Hahn when campaign contributions were filed earlier this month. Despite the cash infusion, however, Hertzberg still suffers from lower name recognition than Hahn, Villaraigosa and Councilman Bernard C. Parks leading up to the March 8 election. But he has found support in the Valley business community and VICA chairman Marty Cooper has said that Hertzberg is likely to do very well in the Valley. While serving in the California State Legislature, Hertzberg developed a reputation as an effective compromiser. He said his background in business helped him hammer out agreements between his majority Democrats and the Republican representatives. Hertzberg has promised to run Los Angeles “like a business,” making results a higher priority over new spending. Question: Why are you running for mayor? Answer: When I left the speakership, I was the first person in almost 50 years to not seek another elected office. I came home, I joined one of the sixth largest law firms in America. Mickey Kantor, the former Secretary of Commerce, recruited me. I also opened a factory for a new technology that I developed in South Los Angeles in solar technology. The company’s actually gone public. I had no intention of running for office. My approach to Mayor Hahn was one of good faith. I tried to help him in any way possible, I tried to help him on the secession movement, I tried to help him on major issues. I just think this is a new day with very serious challenges, and I just think Jim Hahn represents the old style of politics; he doesn’t have any understanding of how to govern this region in a way for us to be competitive globally. Q: What does the mayor misunderstand? A: The rules of how local government is operated have changed. We have to be much more aggressive in attracting businesses and maintaining businesses here. Because no matter what social policies we want we can’t afford them. We can’t afford more police officers, we can’t afford to keep our trauma care centers open, unless we have the capital. I just am mortified by his lack of attention to the fundamentals, and we don’t have another four years to wait. I was the chair of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation recently, and every month I used to get the report of businesses leaving. And they’re not leaving to go to Beijing or St. Louis, they’re leaving to go to Glendale and Burbank and Pasadena and the like. I’m going to put up road blocks, I’m not letting them go. The four large issues I’m focusing on, one of course is the jobs and the economy, two is public safety. He just hasn’t kept his promise. He said that he was going to bring more police officers and he just hasn’t. He blames the city council, and come on, leadership means that you figure it out. Third thing is education, even though it’s not the direct responsibility of the mayor these kids are our kids. Half the kids that are dropping out are causing all sorts of problems. The jobless rate is a big problem. The other issue of course is traffic. Traffic to me is symptomatic of a larger failure. Q: What is wrong with the current approach to congestion? A: To give you an example, four years ago I got about 9 million dollars for traffic mitigation, I got heavily involved with a strike force on traffic with the private sector, I put a lot of money into the budget to pay for light synchronization, dealing with traffic. In March, Jim Hahn when he was city attorney running for mayor issued a press release saying “we’re stuck in traffic, the money’s stuck in the bank. When I’m mayor, I’m going to be a leader and I’m going to deal with this issue.” He’s done nothing. His vision is 25 intersections a year. At that rate, your grandchildren won’t have the intersections finished. We just can’t sit around and issue press releases all day long. Someone’s got to be worried about the tough stuff, and I just think at some level he’s captivated by the special interests, and he doesn’t have the fortitude to tell them “no,” and craft a vision for the future of Los Angeles. The Boeing Corporation is looking to expand, and he didn’t even respond to the RFP. We didn’t even compete for jobs for Virgin Atlantic. The jobs went to Northern California. You can’t run a city like that. Q: What’s the campaign been like for you so far? A: It’s been phenomenal. I’m not blowing smoke, it’s been phenomenal. There’s a hunger throughout the city, not just in the San Fernando Valley, it’s in South L.A., in the Eastside. People see there is a malaise, they get that we have to have a leader who’s dynamic, who’s going to have a vision, who’s going to move the city forward. So here I am running against four incumbents, an incumbent mayor, two incumbent City Council members, and an incumbent chairman of the labor committee in the Senate. I’m not going to city hall and asking for contributions from people who do business with city hall, they’re people who have had experience with me, who see me as a roll up your sleeves get it done kind of person. It’s been just gratifying. I’m not having people slam doors in my face, I’m not having people tell me they’re supporting the mayor, it’s just not happening. Q: Does your experience in the Assembly qualify you to be mayor? A: I think there are a couple of things that qualify me. First, I’m a business man, and I really understand what it’s like to pay taxes, to sign the front of a paycheck, not just the back of a paycheck, and I think that’s very important in times like this. Second, I have worked in almost all corners of Los Angeles, and really have a deep understanding of Los Angeles. Thirdly, so much of what we do hear in the city of L.A. is affected by the state, and I have a strong understanding of how the state operates. Fourthly I think that the role of speaker taught me to be collaborative. When I was in Sacramento, because of my sensitivity and my background as a businessman, I formed the business Democrats. A friend of mine from the Central Valley and I built it into a strong organization, because we felt it was a way to still put forth social policies that were sensitive to the needs of business. It’s a perfect example of how I approached government. Q: What elements of the mayor’s office aren’t you prepared for? A: I feel pretty prepared. I’m a great student of the city, I’ve worked hard. I really understand the charter and how it works. On some level, it’s some of the people that I don’t know there, in terms of the benefits of personal relationships that help you get your job done. Q: You seem to have strong support within the Valley business community, if elected, what will you do to keep Valley business leaders from thinking they have an advantage with city hall? A: I do have tremendous support in the Valley business community. Why? Because they’ve worked with Bob Hertzberg. They know I’m bipartisan, they know I’m thoughtful and hard-working. While I was in the legislature, I had a business commission where I didn’t always agree with the members, but I listened to them. I understood what they said, they knew it. They knew when I made decisions I made them with integrity and with my understanding of what the common good was, not being beholden to some particular interest group. I think there’s a lot of excitement in the San Fernando Valley about my candidacy, in particular in the business community, because I am a businessman and I do understand the plight, I do know what it’s like. I opened this factory, and I was embarrassed for my partners. I begged them to do business in Los Angeles because I wanted to make a statement, I wanted to open in Los Angeles, and the way we were treated was just horrible. We couldn’t get power for six to eight months. The inability to get anything done in this city is just so personally difficult. You’re the mayor of all the city, the Valley is a big piece of it, certainly I think people in the community and others will have pride in having someone downtown. I’m going to do a lot with government, take it out of city hall. Take that bureaucracy from downtown and move it into the neighborhoods and create government closer to the people. I fundamentally believe that government that is closer to the people better understands our challenges. Q: What are you specific plans for improving the city’s business climate? A: This whole gross receipts tax (reform) is a movement toward a better plan, and you’re going to see Hertzberg move that in a much more significant way. Second, you’re going to see me not being beholden to the special interests. I’m going to be much more of a hands-on mayor. The current mayor has meetings with all of his managers and he doesn’t show up, his chief of staff does it. I’m going to appoint people who are much more sensitive to commission jobs in government to interests of the business community. In housing, I’m going to streamline the whole process, I’m going to change it and break it down. I think at the core of it, it really breaks down to this issue of local control. If you have somebody who understands what’s going on in a community, who understands what the chamber’s doing and what the business community is doing in any particular corner of the city they’re going to be much more responsive to the interests, rather than having to take a number downtown and wait only to be told you’re standing in the wrong line. Q: As a mayor from the Valley, what could you do to heal some old wounds from the secession movement? A: First, when I come home and I talk to my friends, I’m not going to be saying “it’s good to be out here.” As trite as that sounds, I think it’s important that people know they have a mayor who understands them. Q: What should the city’s priorities be over the next few years, and where has the mayor failed? A: He just hasn’t delivered on any of his promises. Look at the police. He hasn’t given Bratton the resources he needs to do his job. To take a business person’s approach, you hire the best people, you live up to your end of the bargain and they live up to theirs or you fire them. It’s that simple. Bratton seems to be a very decent guy, he’s very energetic. He has a lot of good ideas. Jim Hahn promised him a thousand officers. Chief Bratton has indicated he needs more than that. Hahn has not been willing to make the tough decisions, he hasn’t been willing to go against special interest groups and stand up for what he said he believed in. Integrity is integrating your actions and your values. If he had integrity on that issue, he would have made other cuts, he would have figured out a way to get money to make police number one. You’ve got a $5.3 billion budget outside of the proprietary departments. Collectively it’s about $7 billion between the harbor, the airport and the DWP. There’s about $1.5 billion for cops. That means you’ve got about $3.8 billion more. You can’t find five percent out of that money to be able to pay for police officers? That’s crazy. Q: When you think of a great mayor, who do you think of? A: Certainly Giuliani and what he did with respect to the horrible crisis in New York, just command and control. I think (former Mayor Stephen) Goldsmith in Indianapolis, I embrace his whole philosophy, it’s not about dollars, it’s about results. If you ran a corporation, and went to you shareholders and said, “we spent more money on this department, so we should be rewarded,” your stock’s going to go in the tank and you’re going to lose your job. It’s not about how much money you spend, it’s about performance, it’s about how well you do. Robert Hertzberg Title: Attorney with Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, Former Speaker of the California Assembly Age: 50 Education: B.A. in history from the University of Redlands, law degree from the University of California Hastings College of the Law. Personal: Married, three children.

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