It looks as though Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti finally got his ticket out of town—a nomination as ambassador to India that comes amid a steady flow of stories about intellectual slovenliness and workaday sleaziness as hallmarks of his administration.
Political observers might see a tactical retreat by a fellow looking to get his personal ambitions back on track after falling from a perch that had him making noise about running for president less than two years ago.
But Garcetti will likely first need some luck and fancy footwork to retain any hope of rehabilitating a political career derailed by the reality of public corruption and a public health crisis of homelessness in LA on his watch.
Garcetti has to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, where members of both parties will get to question him.
It wouldn’t be hard for some Republican with a seat on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee and presidential ambitions of his own to portray Garcetti as a poster boy for ineptitude just as Democrats are struggling to explain why they’re good for big cities.
Count Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio as potential cross-examiners of Garcetti.
And the Republican crew had plenty to work with even before last week’s round of public claims that Garcetti failed to act on complaints that his one-time top aide Rick Jacobs regularly harassed and abused colleagues in City Hall.
Latest Weak Link
The mess Garcetti intends to leave behind makes it clear that things continue to go downhill at LA City Hall and with the crew of stenographers that passes for a press corps there.
How else to explain the lack of context in coverage of the mayor’s choice to fill in for Ana Guerrero, his chief of staff? Guerrero is on suspension after some ugliness she authored and distributed via a Facebook group came to light, as you can see here.
The legacy media hardly noted when Garcetti tapped Richard Llewellyn as interim chief of staff, extending the career of another weak-but-loyal link.
Llewellyn served as chief of staff for then-City Councilmember Garcetti as far back as 2001. He went on to fill a number of jobs at City Hall, including a post as “counsel” in Garcetti’s mayoral office. Then Garcetti appointed him to chief administrative officer for the city, where he oversaw a hapless “City Homeless Strategy,” as you can see here.
Llewellyn was just about out of City Hall before Guerrero’s lack of couth pulled him back in.
It looks as though the City of Angels loses on both counts.
Cheap Shot on Irvine Company Costs Attorney
A court in Orange County recently issued a reminder that presumptions about the power equation between real estate developers and public officials in SoCal don’t amount to facts—or open season for disparaging language.
The reminder centered on Newport Beach-based developer Irvine Company, the domain of Donald Bren, the wealthiest real estate developer in the U.S.
Is the Irvine Company powerful on its home turf?
But that doesn’t mean anyone is free to mouth off with general, unsupported accusations against the developer—or the courts.
A lawyer named Paul M. Mahoney of Mahoney & Soll LLP recently learned that lesson.
Mahoney complained to the Fourth District Court of Appeal that a client of his—a subcontractor with some trouble getting paid—lost a claim on the case because the contractor who refused to settle up was connected to the Irvine Company, which “wields a lot of legal and political clout in Orange County.”
Mahoney got hit with a $2,000 fine for contempt of court. His defense was that he “mentioned the obvious things that go on in Orange County which has a lot to do with The Irvine Company, plain and simple.”
“Our society has been going down the tubes for a long time,” Mahoney claimed, “but when you see it in so black and white as in the opinion in this case, it makes you wonder whether or not we have a fair and/or equitable legal system …”
The court’s response: First, the ruling against Mahoney’s client was based on the fact that his client, the subcontractor, hadn’t yet been paid because it hadn’t completed the job.
Second, you’d better have something more than a mouth if you’re going to impugn the integrity of the courts.
“This kind of over-the-top, anything-goes, devil-take-the-hindmost rhetoric has to stop,” the court’s opinion stated.
It’s notable that Mahoney was sanctioned for his insult to the court.
No word on whether the Irvine Company intends to follow up.
Mottek on Move
Do touch that dial if you want to keep up with Frank Mottek.
The golden-voiced dean of the business press in SoCal has moved from his longtime home on KNX/1070 to KABC/790 on the AM dial.
Mottek is switching it up from his recent duty, which had him delivering morning news spots and market updates for KNX from before the opening bell to the close of the stock market on weekdays. He also did a weekend edition of his “Mottek on Money” show, where he takes up current business and finance trends locally.
His KABC schedule not only allows him to focus solely on a daily version of the show, but also puts him in a drive-time slot, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
And note that Mottek’s years of work on the business beat in LA is paying a dividend for him as he takes the familiar “Mottek on Money” brand to his new radio home.
Red Flag on UCI’s Flattery
Memo to Chancellor Howard Gillman at the University of California-Irvine:
It’s true that your institution has a tradition of naming sections of streets on campus in honor of past chancellors—but your recent decision to change the name of a stretch of Bison Avenue to Michael Drake Drive should have waited.
Drake is the former UCI chancellor who now serves as president of the University of California System—which essentially makes him Gillman’s boss.
And that makes the renaming questionable from both sides. UCI is open to charges that it’s sucking up to the boss. The UC system is open to suggestion that its top official has claimed a permanent platitude while still in power—something that’s been more a habit of authoritarians than academics.
And the press release calling the renaming a “supreme UCI tribute” doesn’t help.
$75 Million Deal for Hyatt Regency LAX is Union-Made, Looks Light
Labor unions might be on the wane when it comes to organizing workers, with the exception of public employees.
It can be a different story altogether when it comes to investments.
Consider the recent $75 million sale of the 580-room Hyatt Regency LAX, a four-star establishment positioned at the gateway to the airport.
The buyer of the hotel was a fund of the Downtown LA-based Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters.
The seller was New York-based Amalgamated Bank, an outgrowth of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, which morphed into Workers United after several mergers over decades.
The bank veered from its union-only roots by going public in 2014. The deal left Workers United with less than a majority of shares in the bank, although it remains the single largest stockholder.
The change, in any case, means that “Amalgamated has had to think beyond its traditional mission of serving unions and the union worker to focusing on a larger community of progressive organizations and institutions that share many of the same values,” according to the bank’s website.
It seems there’s room for some capitalistic values, too.
Amalgamated owned the Hyatt Regency LAX for a couple of decades before it sold it for $93 million in 2007, just before the Great Recession. It took the hotel back in foreclosure in 2014, assuming a $43 million mortgage, and then put another $75 million into a renovation.
That might not be the whole picture, though, because Amalgamated sold off a parking structure next to the property a couple of years ago, getting $85 million from Beverly Hills-based real estate investor Kennedy Wilson Holdings Inc.
It’s not clear if the parking structure was split off from the hotel.
Count the parking lot as part of the overall picture, and Amalgamated has taken in $253 million in sales of the property and put out $118 million since 2007.
Not bad for the folks who are usually on the other side of the table from the owners of such enterprises.
But an isolated look at the latest deal for the hotel property doesn’t speak well of the state of the local trade, according to Alan Reay of Irvine-based industry tracker and consultancy Atlas Hospitality Group. Reay notes the latest sale is down about 30% on a per-room basis from less than a year ago, when the 502-room Renaissance at LAX sold for $91.5 million, or about $182,000 per room.
Political junkies looking east for tea leaves on next year’s local municipal election could view Eric Adams’ win in New York City’s mayoral primary as a positive harbinger for fellow moderate Democrat and ex-cop Joe Buscaino’s bid for the top job in LA—but they also might look to the victory of Socialist candidate India Walton in Buffalo as an indicator on several of the City Council seats up for grabs.