President-elect Bill Clinton, on his first visit to California since Election Day, is expected to join bargain-hunting middle America today by shopping for Christmas gifts at the mall--in a predominantly Republican suburb of Los Angeles.
Glendale city officials said Thursday that they are prepared for the Democratic President-elect to visit the Glendale Galleria--and fork out cash at three or four shops "predetermined" by his staff--in the early afternoon. Clinton's transition staff in Little Rock, Ark., declined comment.
In Glendale, Clinton would come to a largely conservative city that has a strong pro-business reputation and a history of voting for Republican presidential candidates. All five members of the Glendale City Council are Republican, as is the managing general partner of the galleria.
But in what may be a sign of the changing times, Glendale voters favored Clinton on Nov. 3 by 93 votes out of 45,000 cast, said Mayor Carl Raggio, a retired aerospace engineer who voted for President Bush. The margin made Clinton the first Democrat to take the city since Franklin D. Roosevelt, Raggio said.
"The campaign is over," said Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg, who also voted for Bush. "The President-elect would be welcome anytime. And when he is President, he can come back again. It puts Glendale on the map favorably."
Hamo Rostamian, a local business leader and Bush supporter, said Clinton's journey to Glendale would signal the President-elect's willingness to reach out to communities not traditionally associated with the Democratic Party.
"By coming here, he is indicating that he will be a President for everyone, regardless of party line," he said.
City officials said the shopping stop has been characterized by Clinton aides as nonpolitical. Bremberg said police informed her that council members were invited to attend "just as human beings," but no special arrangements have been made for local politicians. Raggio said he was invited to greet Clinton as the official representative of the city, and Rostamian said he was invited as a spokesman for the business community.
"I won't be there," Bremberg said. "I don't do well in big crowds. I am 4 feet 10, and I am always the empty space that people step back into."
Police said crowds could be a problem, with the visit creating a possible logistics nightmare on what traditionally has been the busiest and most congested shopping day of the year.
"It will be the first day for Christmas shopping and it will be basically chaos here," said a security guard answering phones Thanksgiving Day at the closed mall. "I can't even begin to tell you what it will be like."
Even without Clinton, about 50,000 shoppers are expected to cram into the 226-store mall, which is one of the largest in Southern California and among the top sales-tax generators in Glendale. Last year, mall retailers exceeded $300 million in sales, a sum rivaled only by the city's automobile dealerships.
Clinton aides in Little Rock would not comment on the expected visit, which was reported earlier by the Glendale News-Press and the Daily News of Los Angeles. It is expected, however, that Clinton will squeeze the brief spending spree between a meeting with former President Ronald Reagan in Century City and a weekend vacation with friends Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason at their beachfront estate in Summerland.
Daniel W. Donahue, chairman of Donahue Schriber, managing general partner of the mall, said he was advised by Clinton's staff "to maintain secrecy" about the visit, which Donahue and Glendale officials said could be called off at the last minute.
"We would be delighted if he would be there, but I can't confirm it," Donahue said. "If he comes, we want to afford him as much security as we possibly can. We want him to feel comfortable in a natural setting, not one that is hyped up."
Glendale police spent Wednesday and Thursday in closed-door sessions in preparation for Clinton's arrival, which is expected between noon and 2 p.m. Sgt. Jim Laurie said security will be provided by Glendale police, the California Highway Patrol and the Secret Service.
"The best advice I can give to people is to enter off of Broadway" where it is least congested, Laurie said. "We are attempting to put extra officers out there, but the day after Thanksgiving is always a mess."
If Clinton's visit to Washington last week provides any clues, the President-elect's trip to Glendale could attract as much attention--and scrutiny--as will his official visit with Reagan. Last week, after talking to Bush at the White House, Clinton strolled through the predominantly black Petworth community a couple of miles north of the White House, attracting rave reviews for his willingness to stay in touch with voters.
Donahue, a Republican who did not vote for Clinton, said the President-elect deserves a lot of credit for choosing the Glendale Galleria over shopping malls in more traditionally Democratic parts of Los Angeles.
"We did not invite them. They contacted us," Donahue said. "It should be pointed out that this is not a payoff or that kind of thing."