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Mayor's roadshow a cast of thousands

Well, seven and security, but Villaraigosa's entourage for a D.C. trip is raising eyebrows.

March 23, 2007|Duke Helfand and Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writers

When Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa travels to Washington on Monday to lobby for federal money, he won't be in any danger of feeling lonely: He's packing a gaggle of aides.

Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom and Councilwoman Pam O'Connor will make the trip, too -- but with just one city staff member between them. Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle is traveling solo.

As nearly 200 leaders around Southern California gear up for next week's Access Washington trip, some government watchers are shaking their heads at the sheer number of people traveling with Villaraigosa -- seven members of his staff, plus a police security detail.

"Most people who travel with that much staff are addressed as Mr. President or Your Highness," said Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. "Taking even one staff member is questionable, but taking seven or eight is over the top."

A Villaraigosa spokesman said each of the seven staff members, and an eighth already in Washington, will serve an integral policy or legislative purpose as the mayor meets with lawmakers, foreign diplomats and federal bureaucrats.

Villaraigosa will be seeking money for anti-gang initiatives, transportation, affordable housing and other causes, while also meeting with the Mexican ambassador in advance of his trip to Mexico in May.

"This is a huge undertaking, and every staff member traveling with the mayor has a critical and substantive role," said Deputy Mayor Sean Clegg. "It's a three-day sprint. Traveling with the mayor is tough duty. He demands that you are on your game 24 hours a day."

The mayor's City Hall entourage includes Deputy Mayor Kevin Acebo, who is in charge of legislative and intergovernmental relations, and Diego Alvarez, associate director under Acebo.

Also in the group will be Deputy Mayor Arif Alikhan, who oversees homeland security and public safety, and Marshall Tuck, executive director of the Mayor's Partnership for School Excellence.

Press secretary Janelle Erickson will be aboard, as will Elga Sharpe, the mayor's director of protocol, and Martha Fainberg, the director of special projects who is overseeing preparations for a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Los Angeles in June.

Villaraigosa's office was unable to say Thursday how much the trip will cost.

At least five City Council members, including Council President Eric Garcetti, also are going. Most are taking one aide.

Villaraigosa on Thursday took three assistants to Miami, where he is speaking today about urban poverty. He returns tonight.

When he leaves again Monday, he won't be the only one traveling to the nation's capital with a lot of help.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is sending nine people.

Supt. David L. Brewer will be taking three, including his communications director and a legislative aide. School Board President Marlene Canter will be bringing her chief of staff, board member Monica Garcia is going by herself, and two other board members are sending staff members.

An L.A. Unified teacher and the district's chief lobbyist also are making the trip but not as part of the district's official contingent.

"This is a big, complex trip with a lot of moving pieces," said Shannon Murphy, Brewer's communications director. "It's absolutely appropriate for the superintendent and board president to lead a delegation."

Next week's trip, organized by trade and business organizations including the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, is the year's biggest lobbying trip to Washington for cities across the region.

The roster features a veritable Who's Who of Southern California's political and business establishments.

But those on the list say they can't do it alone. They rely on legislative aides, an assortment of deputies and other support staff to help them coordinate meetings, knock on doors and navigate the halls of Congress.

Pringle, for example, said he usually travels with a city aide when he visits Washington once or twice a year.

This time he will rely on support staff from the Orange County Business Council, which he said is coordinating the trip.

"Do I feel comfortable going without any city folks? I've always heard they have phones [in Washington]. There are probably ways to utilize tools there without having to bring anyone."

Police Chief William J. Bratton, who has been attending a conference this week at Harvard University, said he plans to connect with Villaraigosa in Washington so they can press for federal help on local gang programs.

Bratton will be accompanied by one aide, Det. Jeff Godown, who is in charge of the Los Angeles Police Department's computerized crime analysis program. They plan to continue meetings with federal officials over a $5-million grant sought by the LAPD to connect city and federal crime databases, Bratton said.

City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo was scheduled to return Thursday from a three-day trip to Washington, where he met with several legislators. Delgadillo was accompanied by two aides: legislative policy director Michael Dundas and chief advisor Ann D'Amato.

*

duke.helfand@latimes.com

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

Times staff writer Joel Rubin contributed to this report.

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