Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Los Angeles mayor candidates Garcetti, Greuel battle for key SEIU union endorsement

Mercer 1335

Brian Watt/KPCC

Members of SEIU Local 721 gather in front of Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.

The two leading candidates for Los Angeles mayor appeared before a high stakes meeting of labor activists Tuesday night, hoping to win the endorsement of a city workers union.

It was the second time in as many months Service Employee International Union workers peppered L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilman Eric Garcetti with questions. The union has ruled out backing any other candidates.

Garcetti, who was president of the City Council when it voted to shrink government and lay off workers to address the deficit, sounded relieved in a statement issued after the meeting.

“Tonight rank and file workers made it clear with their votes that SEIU is not ready to endorse,” Garcetti said.  “I am grateful for the votes of so many Los Angeles workers tonight.”

SEIU officials did not release the vote totals. A Garcetti spokesman emailed a photo showing Greuel won the backing of two SEIU locals, but four others abstained or voted to make no endorsement in the March 5 primary election.

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VIDEO: LA mayoral candidate Kevin James and his billionaire benefactor

BetterWayLA/YouTube

A screenshot from the "Hen House" political video from Better Way L.A.

Los Angeles mayoral candidate Kevin James likes to point out that one of the donors to the “superPAC” supporting him is Chicago-based Henry Crown & Co., which in the past has supported President Barack Obama.

“So this ‘superPAC’ is truly bipartisan,” James said Monday of Better Way LA.

But the $100,000 donation by the private equity firm pales when compared to the $600,000 from the only other donor, Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons.

This is the Simmons who doled out more than $25 million to Republican groups trying to defeat President Obama, whom Simmons labels “a socialist” and “the most dangerous man in America.” 

That kind of help could hurt a mayoral candidate in overwhelmingly Democratic LA.

James said he doesn’t agree with Simmons’ characterization of Obama, but nonetheless appreciates his support.  James desperately needs it. He’s raised a fraction of the campaign cash of his opponents, all Democrats.

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Just how much waste and fraud has Wendy Greuel found as city controller?

Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association mayoral debate.

Rebecca Hill/KPCC

Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel answers questions during the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association mayoral debate. Her new TV ad - the first in this contest - raised questions from one of her opponents.

Wendy Greuel’s mayoral campaign released its first television ad Tuesday to promote the work she’s done as L.A. city controller. She says she’s identified $160 million in waste - but it turns out that numbers are a tricky thing.

The 30-second spot is the first TV ad in this year's Los Angeles mayoral campaign – and it immediately drew criticism from one of Greuel’s opponents.

“As city controller, I found $160 million in waste and fraud – your tax dollars squandered,” Greuel says in the ad. “ As mayor, I can stop the waste because I know where it is.”

On her campaign website, Greuel, who was elected controller in 2009, identifies a total of $175 million in what she calls “wasteful spending, fraudulent activity and abuse of city resources.” 

Before the campaign released the ad to the media , Eric Garcetti’s campaign cried foul. A statement from the Garcetti campaign argued that as controller, Greuel found $96.7 million in waste – a figure the controller's own website seems to back up. Statements from 2010, 2011 and 2012 indicated that Greuel's audits identified a total of $96.5 million. So, why the discrepancy with the $175 million figure on her campaign website and the $160 million number in the ad?

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Los Angeles City Council votes for own marijuana measure on May ballot to regulate pot dispensaries

Medical Marijuana

Bear Guerra/KPCC

A third measure to regulate marijuana looks to be headed to Los Angeles' May ballot. The Los Angeles City Council voted 8-4 to back its own proposal.

A divided Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to place its own medical marijuana measure on the May ballot, continuing its efforts to regulate storefront clinics that provide cannabis.

A coalition that includes Americans for Safe Access, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 and the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance - which previously qualified its own measure for the ballot - immediately endorsed the measure. While voters may still consider the alliance's ballot item, the coalition hopes Angelenos support the City Hall measure. 

“This initiative ordinance combines the best elements of our earlier version with additional revenues for public services,” said UFCW Local 770 President Rick Icaza.

Eight-hundred to 1,000 dispensaries operate in the city of Los Angeles. The proposed measure would reduce that number to about 130. It would also increase the business tax clinics pay from $50 per $1,000 in sales to $60. It would require clinics to operate at least 1,000 feet from schools and 600 feet from places like parks and libraries.

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With Ray LaHood leaving the cabinet, will Antonio Villaraigosa have a job in the White House?

Obama Accepts Nomination On Final Day Of Democratic National Convention

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa headed to Washington, D.C.? Ray LaHood's decision to step down as U.S. Transportation Secretary gives teeth to speculation that the mayor could join Obama's White House.

The White House announced Tuesday that U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will step down from his cabinet position. With that news, Los Angeles political insiders are wondering whether this could be Antonio Villaraigosa’s big moment.

With the L.A. mayor in the home stretch of his second term, speculation continues as to what Villaraigosa will do next. His name is frequently mentioned for a possible cabinet position with the Obama Administration. Villaraigosa chaired the 2012 Democratic National Convention and spent the better part of the year traveling around the country to campaign for the president. He is a frequent guest on cable news and Sunday morning talk shows. And on July 1, he will be unemployed. 

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, the mayor sounded open to a move to Washington, D.C.

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