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Friday, Dec 8, 2023

Valley Business Leaders Watch as Mayor Picks Panels

Since taking office in July, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has exercised his right to appoint members of commissions and boards throughout the city by picking a number of political outsiders, government critics and removing many people that were appointed by James Hahn in the previous administration. During his campaign, Villaraigosa promised to change the face of City Hall and introduce an atmosphere of reform to Los Angeles. In picking a number of environmentalists for the Department of Water and Power, for example, he seemed willing to attack some departments’ poor records on pollution. Is the business community nervous about the make up of the commissions? Martin Cooper, chair of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, said that although Villaraigosa is showing that he is a liberal Democrat, he has been considering a wide variety of commissioners. “The mayor is doing an excellent job of looking at the entire spectrum of people who can work on commissions,” said Cooper. “I don’t think things have to be stacked in the business community’s favor,” said Cooper. “If we were to draw a continuum and put a line right in the middle, he’d be trailing a little toward the left, more toward liberal Democrats, union members and Latinos, but he’s not doing it to a degree that I think is offensive, or shall we say, way out of line.” Valley businesspeople, or those businesses that want to set up shop here for that matter, are keeping their eyes on the area planning commissions, especially after witnessing battles over new business in the recent past, like the Sherman Oaks Homeowners’ Association’s fight against a new Best Buy electronics store. Gordon Murley, a well-known community activist and president of the Woodland Hills Homeowners’ Association, will be dealing with those issues now as new appointee to the South Valley Area Planning Commission. Murley was described by the mayor’s staff as a “community advocate and assessment district oversight committee member for the acquisition of open space in Woodland Hills, Santa Monica Mountains and Mulholland Corridor.” Murley has been an active critic of the planning department, he’s sued the department in the past for inadequately dealing with traffic congestion, and during the mayoral campaign he was part of a media event when he made a trip to City Hall to make a public records request for Mayor Hahn’s schedule, a point of contention during the race. Cooper said he’s known Murley ever since serving on the board of directors for the Woodland Hills Chamber of Commerce, and was sure he’d make an active commissioner in the South Valley. “Gordon is one of those people who, when he holds a view, it’s a very strongly held view. I would hope that some of his strongly held views are brought to the floor,” said Cooper. “I also hope he thinks there is a need for accommodation. Villaraigosa also made quite an impression when he appointed Playa del Rey Attorney Valeria Velasco to the Airport Commission, as she had been head of a community group that sued over the $11 billion expansion plan for Los Angeles International Airport. Valley representation In other areas, the Valley has found its business leaders included on issues that are nearest to its residents’ hearts, like transportation. “The two that I’m most familiar with are David Fleming and Richard Katz,” said Bruce Ackerman, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley. “That gives us great representation, plus it’s good for the city of Los Angeles and the region. They’re two of the most knowledgeable people on transportation I’ve ever come across.” Ackerman was also pleased to see Murley present on the South Valley Planning Commission. “Gordon is a brilliant choice, he’s a very active member of the Alliance especially on our Vision 2020 project, he’s one of our mainstays on that project,” Ackerman said. “Gordon comes from a business background, even though a lot of people associate him with the Homeowner’s Association, but he’s a very forward thinking individual.” Ackerman himself has been named as a likely appointee for the Community Redevelopment Agency, though all he would say about it was that he had been asked by the mayor about the possibility of serving as a commissioner and had said that he would accept the offer. Should he end up serving on the board, Ackerman expected to find no shortage of work. “They have so much opportunity as an agency, so much ability to sculpt the community form a positive standpoint, and I would really like to see them do more of that,” Ackerman said. “The Valley Federal building in Van Nuys just sits there like an albatross, and I know the owners have tried to do something with it. I’m not just picking on that one building; we could drive around all day and pick out dozens of buildings. But I think the agency ought to be used on small, specific projects like that.”

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