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Decision '93 / A Look at the Elections in Los Angeles County : Los Angeles Mayor : Separated from the pack by their public service, 11 candidates are given a fighting chance to win a runoff spot. : Linda Griego : Outsider With Business Touch

April 11, 1993|MARC LACEY

Billing herself as an outsider with just enough of an insider's touch, Linda Griego argues that she is uniquely qualified to be the city's next mayor.

During her brief stint as Mayor Tom Bradley's deputy for economic development, she helped businesses navigate the city's bureaucracy and is credited with saving many jobs along the way.

When the riots hit last spring, she became an advocate for the business owners who suffered damage, guiding them through the complicated application process for state and federal aid.

Her interest in business development is a personal one.

As an entrepreneur, Griego came face to face with City Hall's regulatory hurdles in the mid-1980s when she sought to convert an abandoned downtown firehouse into an upscale, 140-seat restaurant.

What initially appeared to be a straightforward project turned into a nightmare. She needed 53 building variances. All work had to be approved by the city, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the state Office of Historical Preservation and the Community Redevelopment Agency.

The web of officialdom led inspectors to issue conflicting orders. Griego would be instructed to do something that someone else would tell her to undo.

Creating Engine Co. 28 took more than two years and turned her into a fierce critic of city government.

"I ran into obstacle after obstacle," she said. "I was the biggest complainer about city government."

She became a part of the very bureaucracy she was criticizing in the fall of 1991 when Bradley selected her as one of his two deputy mayors.

She had been there just over a year when Bradley announced that he would not seek reelection.

Griego is the only woman among the front-running candidates and one of two politically prominent Latinos in the race. She is widely viewed as a long shot without the fund-raising clout or breadth of experience of many of her rivals.

Still, she has gathered support from women's groups that have gained confidence since victories in November's state and national elections.

EMILY's List, a national fund-raising group for female candidates, made Griego its first candidate for a local office. Earlier this month the organization sent out more than 10,000 letters in her behalf to politically active women.

"I think voters are sick to death of politicians who huff and puff and make a lot of noise signifying nothing," said Ellen Malcolm, president of group.

Griego's supporters see her brief time in the city's bureaucracy as an asset.

Critics charge that she has not been around policy-making circles long enough and has not developed a thorough program.

Economic revitalization based on the kind of entrepreneurship that led her to open her trendy restaurant remains the key to her platform. It is her solution to urban ills, including racial strife, poverty and unemployment.

In a city divided by racial tensions, Griego said, she has what it takes to appeal to all the city's communities.

She moves comfortably from her fund-raising pitches in downtown boardrooms to the city's ethnic neighborhoods (she lives in Baldwin Hills in a home with a panoramic view of the city).

"I'm a fighter," Griego told a group of downtown businessmen, "and I'm going to fight in City Hall to make sure that the attitude toward business changes."

Linda Griego Born: Oct. 27, 1947. Residence: Baldwin Hills. Education: Bachelor's degree, UCLA. Career Highlights: Restaurant owner; former deputy mayor; has served on a number of boards and commissions, including the Community Redevelopment Agency, the Handicapped Access Appeals Board and the Cultural Affairs Commission. Interests: Hiking, reading, Los Angeles Lakers basketball and cooking chili. Family: Married.

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