No one got luckier last week than Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar, who saw news of a Nov. 7 raid by FBI agents on his City Hall office, a field office and his home in Boyle Heights pushed off the front page of the L.A. Times, which was still tracking and analyzing results of the mid-term elections and ran the story of the federal probe on the front of its B section on Nov. 8 … Don’t expect Huizar’s luck to hold as the Times stays on the story, with the feds offering few details so far …
… Don’t be surprised if Huizar’s troubles spill into other offices around City Hall, either – and it wouldn’t be a total shock if a few Downtown or Eastside business folk or colleagues in other districts who deal with him in his role as chairman of the powerful Planning and Land Use Committee get caught up in the mess … It could be that the FBI investigation tracks back to 2010, when questions cropped up about a lifestyle that seemed to outstrip Huizar’s paycheck as a public servant – even with the relatively rich pay packages for L.A. City Councilmembers, who make significantly more than their colleagues in Sacramento or Washington, D.C. The first notice that the feds were taking a look at Huizar came in the Los Angeles Garment & Citizen, a community newspaper I founded and oversaw as it served Downtown and surrounding districts with distinction for 10 years. The weekly publication reported in early 2010 on rumblings among some merchants that Huizar’s personal spending had brought investigators to their shops. The Garment & Citizen shut down amid the Great Recession in mid-2010, but questions about Huizar were revived for a dramatic spell by Rudy Martinez, a real estate developer and restaurateur who stood up as a challenger in 2011 election for the 14th District seat and flat-out announced in campaign mailers that his opponent was under investigation. The feds stayed mum, the media gave the story a once over, and Huizar survived a spirited bid by Martinez. Full disclosure: Martinez is a longtime friend of mine, and I helped on his campaign during a hiatus from journalism after shutting down the Garment & Citizen … Not much mention of any investigation in Huizar’s next campaign, a 2015 race where he handily beat longtime political pro Gloria Molina for his current term. More recently he’s been angling to keep the seat in his family after he hits his term limit in 2020, openly campaigning for his wife, Richelle, to succeed him. Figure those plans scrambled and the 14th District race wide open for now.
The past week also brought a payoff on a teaser that Patrick Soon-Shiong tossed out at last month’s PolicyWest conference. The biotech billionaire and L.A. Times owner took the stage for a Q&A during the dinner that capped the event hosted by the Downtown-based Pacific Council on International Policy at the Beverly Hilton, at one point telling the crowd that Los Angeles would soon be “awarded something” that would give a substantial boost to its global profile. Seems Soon-Shiong was speaking of the inaugural World Urban Games, which he’s agreed to underwrite for $10.5 million, sealing a deal that beat Budapest for the rights to what’s intended to be a bi-annual festival of “sports, music, food, art and digital entertainment,” according to organizers. The five-day run will be held in El Segundo, and the featured “non-traditional and emerging Olympic” sports will range from 3-on-3 basketball to skateboarding, with e-sports and break dancing, among other activities, in the lineup … Reports indicate that Soon-Shiong personally ponied up the underwriting fee charged by the Lausanne, Switzerland-based Global Association of International Sports Federations, and will serve as the head of an organizing committee that is likely to seek sponsors. No definitive word on those plans yet, but knowledgeable observers offer the educated guess that the Times won’t likely sign on because a sponsorship would present a conflict with coverage of the event. Is Soon-Shiong’s move to pay for the games from his vast trove of resources besides the Times enough to pass ethical muster? The guess here is that the Times will have a free hand on coverage and leave it to the marketplace of readers to decide if the coverage is legit … The games come with a relatively small price tag of $10.5 million for rights – a pittance in business of sports these days. The price looks even better when viewed against plans for the Times to launch a 24-hour news channel. The World Urban Games will likely produce hundreds of hours of content, with potential for some great highlight shows, which are ideal for the short-form that so many millennials favor on their cell phones.
Red Carpet Romp
Nothing to cheer about with last month’s announcement that the annual L.A. Film Festival will shut down after 18 years, with Miracle Mile-based nonprofit parent Film Independent planning to focus on a year-round schedule of various other events … There was a silver lining to be glimpsed a week or so later, when Golden Globe-nominated actor Perry King made his directorial debut with the premiere of “The Divide” at Ahrya Fine Arts cinema on Wilshire on Nov. 5. … It’s an intriguing Western set in the 1970s and centered on Alzheimer’s disease – a lovely film in a lot of ways, although its merits likely won’t add up to big box office. King joined producer Jo Haskin, screenwriter Jana Brown and a crowd of actors, crew, backers and fans to celebrate the picture in a gem of a movie house that offered a reminder that there is enough talent and enough small- to mid-sized venues – think of the Saban, Wiltern, and Orpheum to name just a few – to give independent filmmakers plenty of places to get festive.
Kids & Kudos
Kudos to the Zimmer Children’s Museum, which is soon to be the Cayton Children’s Museum and due to move from Wilshire & San Vicente to a 21,000-square-foot space on the top floor of Santa Monica Place. Officials of nonprofit parent ShareWell took the opportunity of its annual Discovery Award Dinner at the Skirball Cultural Center on Nov. 7 to announce the outfit has raised $11 million of its goal of $15 million in funds for the project, which now is expected to open early next year … Kudos to this year’s ShareWell honorees Andrea and Barry Cayton, chief benefactors of the new facility; Craig Erwich, head of original series development and strategy for Hulu; and Sandra Stern, president of Lionsgate Television Group … Final kudos to deadpan standup comedian Demetri Martin, a late pinch hitter for D.L. Hughley, who was billed as emcee for the ShareWell event but apparently had to drop the gig on short notice.
Sullivan Says: The Hideout at the W Hotel in Westwood really is a nice spot to hide out.