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Thursday, May 23, 2024

L.A. Mayor’s Race Lacks Adrenaline

When voters went to the polls in early March in the primary election for Los Angeles mayor, only 21 percent of those eligible took part. The turnout for the May 21 run-off election between Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel may not be much better. And in the San Fernando Valley business community, interest in who will be the next mayor reflects that of the population in general – from plain “meh” to full engagement of the candidates and their respective stands on the issues. The reasons for voter apathy during this election cycle are many but one of the biggest knocks against Garcetti and Greuel, both Democrats, is their positions are not all that different. “They are both saying the same thing,” said Scott Wolfson, owner of All-Marks LLC, a Reseda company that does laser identification for aerospace and other manufacturers. Wolfson is still on the fence when it comes to which candidate will receive his vote next week. He initially had backed Garcetti but with Greuel doing a full-court press with television advertising and mailers, he now has second thoughts. “I’m now wondering if (Garcetti) is paying attention to the details and if she is getting the one up on him,” Wolfson said. A similarity of the candidates when it comes to an issue of interest to business people is best typified by the gross receipt tax levied against businesses in the city. Both Greuel and Garcetti support phasing out the tax as a way to create economic growth. Job creation and future commercial and residential growth have also been addressed by the candidates. Garcetti in particular has boasted of the success of new construction in Hollywood while representing that area of the city. But not all potential voters are interested. Dave Rottner is the president of C-P Manufacturing Corp. in Van Nuys and social issues are more important to him than a position on the business tax. Whether a Democrat or Republican is in office at city hall has not meant much to C-P’s production of machined parts for aerospace customers. “I’m more concerned with the overall health of the community than whether our business is going to suffer,” Rottner said. Valley roots Garcetti and Greuel received the most votes out of a field of five candidates in the March primary. 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. Greuel is part owner with her brother of Frontier Building Supply, a North Hollywood business started by their parents. Having represented the Valley and its base of fiscally conservative voters on the City Council gave Greuel an advantage over her competitors in garnering local support. She also is reaching out to women voters although her positions on issues facing female voters do not differ much from Garcetti’s. Greuel’s responsiveness to neighborhood issues as a councilmember is what puts Vincent Carabello, owner and president of Hollywood Film Co. in Sun Valley, in her corner although as a Pasadena resident he cannot vote for her. When calling Greuel’s office to report abandoned cars or motor homes in her east Valley district, staff members would respond and on occasion Carabello said he would talk with Greuel directly. “My interest is in seeing a local girl move ahead,” Carabello said. 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. Garcetti and Greuel are just about evenly matched when it comes to the money both have raised for the general election. As of April 6, Garcetti had raised $1,271,160 to Greuel’s $1,121,467, according to campaign finance disclosure forms filed with the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission. The candidates raised more than $4 million each for the March 5 primary when they were up against Los Angeles Councilwoman Jan Perry, former federal prosecutor and radio talk show host Kevin James and business executive Emanuel Pleitez. Those figures, however, do not tell the whole financial picture. Independent political action committees such as Working Californians for Wendy Greuel and Lots of People Who Support Eric Garcetti are pumping millions more into the campaign. Greuel in particular has come under scrutiny because much of the independent PAC dollars backing her has come from union members at the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. Seeking endorsements In the two months since the primary, Garcetti and Greuel have collected endorsements from prominent office holders and citizens. Greuel, for example, received the backing of Laker great Magic Johnson and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), the ranking member of the House Committee on Financial Services. The Waters endorsement, however did no favors when it came to David Wiesenberg, an accountant with a practice in Studio City. “To me that in and of itself is a great negative, she is very left,” Wiesenberg said of Waters. Wiesenberg pays attention to the election but admits there is more local coverage escaping his attention as he reads the Wall Street Journal more than he does the Los Angeles Times. As an accountant who has seen business clients move from Los Angeles to Burbank, Glendale and other neighboring cities, he knows firsthand the pernicious influence of the city’s business tax. “If they are both saying to roll back the city business tax that is good,” Wiesenberg said. “If they keep their promises when they get into office the revenue will be higher if they encourage business.” Elliot Sanders approaches making his choice for mayor not only as a business owner but also as chairman of the Van Nuys Airport Citizens Advisory Council. His preferred candidate would be one that will make the city business friendly and be receptive to make changes at Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that operates Van Nuys. Sanders, the owner of Northridge insurance brokerage Planned Approach Benefits Inc., initially supported Greuel but is now leaning toward Garcetti. He feels the choice voters make is critical because the winner has the potential of being in office for the next eight years.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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