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Q&A | L.A. GOVERNMENT

District Has No Clothes, and Other Visions

January 06, 2006|Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writer

Why are Los Angeles City Hall news conferences worth attending?

Because you never know when an official might do something such as compare a proposed city audit of the school district to visiting the doctor, as Councilman Tom LaBonge so vividly did last month:

"If we do get a physical, and if we do take our clothes off, and if we do expose the challenges that are there, we'll find good things to make corrections."

Thanks for the visual, councilman.

There are a few other items in the news this week, including a provocative Christmas card from a former elected official and the continued rollout of televisions on MTA buses.

Question: Which school board candidate will Councilman Jose Huizar and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa probably back March 7?

Answer: Nothing warms the cockles like a school-board special election, such as the upcoming one to fill the Los Angeles Unified School District seat left vacant by Huizar's election to the council.

But wait! One of the five possible candidates is Monica Garcia, who served as Huizar's chief of staff during his four-year tenure on the board.

Connect the dots: Villaraigosa helped Huizar get elected to the council and Huizar -- surprise! -- is sympathetic to the mayor's wish to reform the schools.

Asked if she was the mayor's beachhead onto a school board unhappy with City Hall, Garcia said, "I'm not carrying water for anyone but the kids."

Garcia also said she supports the concept of a city audit of the district, but wants to hear City Controller Laura Chick provide details on what would be audited.

The six remaining school board members have not exactly been supportive of an audit by city officials.

Q: On the subject of elections, how are the March 2007 council races shaping up?

A: So far, only three people have filed an intention to raise funds for the election: 6th District incumbent Tony Cardenas, 14th District challenger William Morrison and Kevin Melton in the 8th District.

Morrison, who lists himself as a political consultant, is a frequent filer, having pulled papers in at least two previous council races. He also filed to run for Huizar's school board seat, but did not submit the proper paperwork to make the ballot.

Melton is publisher of a magazine for seniors. He also is an eternal optimist, inviting the media to watch him sign his papers at the Ethics Commission in mid-October. Most declined.

Why? In 2003, Melton received 230 votes out of 21,887 cast and came in last in a field of five. Bernard C. Parks won overwhelmingly.

Over the holidays, Melton was relaxing at Lake Tahoe, taking in a couple of ski runs each day. In a telephone interview, he hinted that his lodging wasn't exactly of the Travelodge variety.

"It's no secret I come from a wealthy family. That's all I can say," Melton said. "When I get home today, I'm going to read my mail and then head to Palm Springs for the next week. I tell you there will be no rest when this campaign gets intense, so I need to take a little rest now."

Q: Which former council member circulated the most interesting Christmas card?

A: It was 76-year-old Nate Holden, who retired in 2003 after 16 years in office. The holiday card he sent around City Hall shows him in a horse-drawn sleigh at the sunny L.A. Equestrian Center. Holding the horse's bridle is its owner, Alexandra Datig.

The 36-year-old Datig is known for a book she coauthored under a pseudonym in 1996, titled "You'll Never Make Love in This Town Again." In that tome, she described what it was like working a short time for Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss.

When asked about the card, Holden said he didn't want to talk about it. Referring to Datig's photo, he said, "That's a model.... I'm not going to say it's Alex."

But in an interview Thursday, Datig acknowledged that it was she, describing herself as just a friend of Holden's.

Nowadays, Datig is an activist who has been railing against the city's refusal to move a small mountain of horse manure at the equestrian center.

She says the yuck is steadily seeping into the Los Angeles River, and vows not to stop fighting City Hall until someone cleans it up.

"The worst things that have been written about me were written by me," she said. "I'm not going to go away."

Q: How many city employees did Villaraigosa have his photo taken with on the last workday before Christmas?

A: It's a tradition going back to the days of Sam Yorty -- shortly before the holiday, the mayor stands in front of the City Hall tree and gets his photo taken with city workers.

Over 3 1/2 hours, Villaraigosa had his photo taken with 1,300-plus employees, meaning that he had to withstand about six flashbulbs popping in his face each minute.

Holy migraine!

Eventually, the line of workers waiting their turn had dissipated. The mayor, however, was acting like Rocky Balboa motioning Apollo Creed to come out for the 15th round.

"Who's next -- who hasn't taken a picture?" he yelled and then told his staff he was ready to go "all day."

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