A major rift has developed between Los Angeles City Councilmen Joel Wachs of Studio City and Alex Padilla of Pacoima, with money and politics playing a central role in the dispute.
In the year since Padilla was elected with the endorsement of Wachs, the two politicians have worked closely on issues affecting their adjoining east San Fernando Valley districts, but that gave way this week to bitter, public accusations.
The two were on opposite sides of a recent council vote to allocate $4 million in taxpayer funds for the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles next month, with Wachs, a mayoral candidate, contending that the money would be better used for public safety programs.
Padilla was recently named to chair a committee overseeing the convention. Wachs asked the panel to rescind the decision on the $4 million.
A spokesman for Wachs said Padilla's staff members were warned ahead of time there would be problems if Padilla decided not to bring the motion up for consideration by the committee, which would effectively block consideration by the full council.
"We gave them fair warning," said Greg Nelson, a Wachs aide. "We told them if they chose to do that, they would be doing it with their eyes open."
But when the agenda came out Monday, Wachs' motion was not listed.
"The decision to not place this motion on the committee's agenda, and thereby deny the committee and the City Council the ability to even vote on it, is reprehensible and constitutes a flagrant abuse of power," Wachs said. "This type of back-room wheeling and dealing gives government a bad name."
Wachs appeared at the committee meeting Wednesday and asked again to let the council decide.
"I think there are probably eight members on the council, Mr. Padilla, who would [rescind] it, and you have to allow them that opportunity, whether you agree with them or not," Wachs testified, his voiced edged in anger.
Despite the request, Padilla and the committee took no action on the money.
Wachs was outraged, accusing Padilla of strong-arm tactics and abusing his power as the committee chairman.
"I just can't believe he would engage in that. I'm stunned," Wachs said, adding he believed Padilla acted under pressure from Mayor Richard Riordan.
Wachs said he would try to have the matter taken up by the full council to bypass the committee now.
David Gershwin, a spokesman for Padilla, said half of the $4-million payment had already been processed for the convention and there were other issues that were more pressing for the committee's first meeting.
A DIFFERENT SORT OF PITCH: In a city teeming with aspiring screenwriters, it seems only natural that a local pol would be peddling a script around Hollywood.
Sure enough, it turns out that state Sen. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) has two scripts under his belt, and the William Morris Agency has shopped one of them. To no avail.
"I got a few nibbles, but no bites," Schiff said. "So at this point, I'm not ready to give up the day job."
Representatives from the talent agency said only that Schiff is a former client, and declined further comment.
Schiff has reeled in scores of contributions from Hollywood glitterati for his campaign to unseat Rep. James E. Rogan (R-Glendale), but says he hasn't tried to hawk his material to any of the donors.
Schiff launched his writing career with a novel that he cranked out while attending Harvard Law School in the 1980s. "Right now it's only a successful desk weight," he said.
Next came "Remnant," the story of two brothers growing up in Germany during the 1930s. They get separated in World War II and reunited when it's over.
"It was kind of a period piece, and from what I gathered from those who read it, it would be a very costly one to make," he said. "I was told to write something more contemporary."
Hence, script No. 2, "Minotaur." Or, as Schiff describes it: "A courtroom thriller along the lines of 'Presumed Innocent.' "
It's about a homicide prosecutor whose wife is kidnapped.
Now in the throes of his campaign against Rogan, Schiff no longer has spare time for what he calls his "creative outlet." But after the election, he might try another script offering an insider's view of California politics.
"I'm certainly getting good material," he said.
TO RUN OR NOT: Padilla said this week he is preparing to kick off his reelection campaign later this month.
So far no one has filed papers to challenge him in April. but one group in his district is meeting to possibly change that.
A loosely organized group calling itself FAIR (Families Advancing Intelligent Revitalization), which formed to oppose a proposed redevelopment plan for the northeast Valley, is meeting next week, and members expect discussion on possibly putting up a candidate to challenge Padilla.
The group, which includes former members of a residents' panel on the redevelopment program, is still upset that Padilla pushed the proposal, even though he recently said he would delay any action on it for two years.