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Valley Businesses Place Their Bets

Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel, Jan Perry, Kevin James, Emanuel Pleitez City Controller Wendy Greuel and L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti are considered the leading contenders to become the next mayor of Los Angeles. Business interests in the San Fernando Valley region also are betting on them with their money. Greuel, the only candidate to live in the Valley, benefitted from her strong local ties with donations of $78,815 from businesses through the Jan. 19 reporting period, topping all candidates according to campaign finance disclosure reports filed with the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission. Garcetti was a close second with $74,180, while Councilwoman Jan Perry was a distant third with $30,380 in contributions. Local businesses, not including individual owners, contributed a total of $183,000 to the trio, who are among eight candidates fighting for the top two spots in the March 5 primary. Each of the candidates has particular strengths and natural constituencies, but with the Valley having a voting base that draws from a population of 1.7 million people, the city’s next mayor must have Valley support, said attorney David Fleming, a longtime Valley political activist and founding chairman of BizFed, an L.A. business advocacy group. “You cannot win without winning the Valley,” Fleming said. “No one has won it in the past 60 years without getting Valley support.” In addition to Garcetti, Greuel and Perry, the other two leading candidates are former federal prosecutor and radio talk show host Kevin James and technology company executive Emanuel Pleitez. But while Garcetti and Greuel are considered most likely to be in the run-off, that doesn’t mean the other candidates should be easily dismissed, said Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry & Commerce Association, a business advocacy group in Sherman Oaks. “Jan Perry will make a strong push and shouldn’t be underestimated,” Waldman said. “Kevin James has this giant super PAC spending money for him that could change the shape (of the election).” VICA’s political action committee has endorsed Greuel because it believes her to be the candidate most responsive to the needs of business, Waldman said. The BizFed political action committee is considering making a mayoral endorsement, said BizFed Chief Executive Tracy Rafter. Money matters More than $11 million in contributions has been collected by the mayoral candidates through Jan. 19. More than $8.7 million went to Garcetti, Greuel and Perry alone. The contributions range from $100 to the $1,300, the maximum allowed of an individual, business or organization. Greuel served as a councilwoman for two terms representing portions of the Valley. She was elected controller in 2009. Garcetti has served on the council since 2001 representing the 13th District, which includes Hollywood, Silver Lake and Echo Park. Perry was elected to the council in 2001 from the 9th District, which includes downtown and South Los Angeles. An examination of the donations from the Valley shows the areas of strength of the candidates. Perry, for instance, received money from construction and engineering firms. Both Garcetti and Greuel listed donations from entertainment companies – both the large studios and small, independent production companies. Greuel, too, was strong with small business in the Valley, including a handful of Subway restaurants. All three picked up money from the professional services – lawyers, doctors, and accountants. In some instances, certain businesses didn’t settle on just one candidate. Warner Bros. Entertainment, aircraft charter and management firm Sun Air Jets in Camarillo and aircraft interior refurbishers Syncro Aviation in Van Nuys, for instance, gave to both Garcetti and Greuel. Affordable housing builder AMCAL, in Agoura Hills donated to Perry and Garcetti. Keyes Toyota in Van Nuys, part of the Keyes Automotive Group, contributed to all three. There are two reasons for the double donations, Waldman said. One is that the businesses may have existing relationships with more than one candidate. “Second, they are hedging their bets so that whoever wins no one is going to be mad at them,” he added. Notable Valley area business leaders giving individual contributions to Perry include Roberto Barragan, president of the Sherman Oaks-based Valley Economic Development Center, and Jill Barad, founder of the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils. Garcetti received them from Daniel Greenberg, chief executive of Electro Rent Corp. in Van Nuys; actress Salma Hayek, who lists a Woodland Hills address; and Curt Castagna of Aerolease Aeroplex Group, operator of hangar and office space at Van Nuys Airport. Greuel was backed by Bert Boeckmann, owner of Galpin Motors in North Hills; Encino-based real estate developer Ricky Gelb; and Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. in Glendale. Fleming, an attorney with Latham & Watkins LLP in downtown Los Angeles, contributed the maximum amount to Greuel. Fleming said she’s the best candidate because of her strong Valley ties and the only candidate who has operated a business and knows what it’s like to sign the front of a check. “She’ll have a good idea of the needs of the business community and what the city needs to do to improve,” he said. Greuel is part owner with her brother of Frontier Building Supply, the North Hollywood business started by their parents. Having represented the Valley and its base of fiscally coservicative voters on the city council gives Greuel an advantage over her competitors in garnering local support. She is also reaching out to women voters although her positions on issues facing female voters does not differ much from her competitors. Garcetti, too, has Valley ties he can exploit, having grown up in Encino. He is trying to appeal to younger voters in Hollywood and the Westside and has aimed commercials at Spanish-speaking voters that play up his Latino heritage and upbringing. Perry’s geographical strengths are in and around downtown and South Los Angeles. James, a Republican, wages a campaign to get independents, disgruntled Democrats, and others fed up with how City Hall has operated on his side. Valley business interests got a firsthand look at the top five candidates when BizFed sponsored a debate on Feb. 7 before an audience of nearly 800 people at the Valley Performing Arts Center on the campus of California State University, Northridge. Rafter and Fleming credited moderator Austin Beutner with not letting the candidates get away with pat responses, particularly to questions about handling the city budget which both Rafter and Fleming identified as the major issue of the election. Los Angeles is projected to have deficits of $216 million to $327 million a year through 2017. Beutner asked Perry, Greuel and Garcetti what they would do to balance the budget. Among the steps that Greuel and Garcetti proposed was phasing out the gross receipt tax charged to businesses but to make sure other revenue sources existed as a replacement. “I still don’t know if we have those answers,” Rafter said. “It is an open item and it is frustrating.” The incumbent officeholders played up past accomplishments as their strengths – Garcetti with bringing jobs and development to Hollywood, Greuel with identifying financial waste within city government, and Perry with transforming downtown. James and Pleitez, on the other hand, took the role of political outsiders who would bring fresh ideas to City Hall. “You can’t solve your problems with the same people who caused them,” James said.

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