Gov. Brown; second image of Cirque du Soleil dancers via Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce by ImageActive
Governor Jerry Brown was in downtown Los Angeles last night to give a speech at the JW Marriott, so what better time to ask our governor about the latest on his proposal to kill off the state's Community Redevelopment Agencies and redirect the money back to basic services? In the face of criticism ("non-starter," was Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's reaction to the deal), is Brown still standing firm on his decision to put down the CRAs? "I'm still firm, but always open to suggestions," he told us, preceding his remark with a comment that essentially asked: "Where else is the state going to raise $1.7 billion?"
Asked for a response to Brown's comments, John Shirey, executive director of the California Redevelopment Association, said today he was "surprised" by the Governor's words. “From the meetings I've had in the last couple of days, I was told he was firm and not open to suggestions," said Shirey, who spoke Wednesday in Sacramento before the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance on the topic of saving the CRAs. (Read his defense of the CRAs here.)
And who is taking the hardline now? As for possible compromises--that would scale back CRAs or divert some funds, for instance--Shirey said the CRA isn't "engaging in negotiations," he said. "We’re not offering compromises."
Meanwhile, showing off his budget-minded approach, Brown flew commercial--on Southwest--to last night's Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce event at the JW Marriott, rather than take a private jet. Plus, he "declined to pay $16 for 'business select' seating and took advantage of the airline's senior discount," according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
As for the Los Angeles Times, they covered the Chamber event as a way for Gov. Brown to "take his pitch for extended taxes directly to Republicans' deep-pocketed supporters: California's most influential business leaders."
One of those leaders was billionaire Ed Roski, head of Majestic, who was also honored by the Chamber last night. Majestic has a competing football stadium proposed for Industry, but thankfully, his speech didn't include any mention of the sports stadium. In contrast to the bulldog-like Tim Leiweke (from AEG) or always-blustery John Semcken (from Majestic), Roski came off as gentle as a bunny. "Let's take pride in our region," he told the Chamber members. "And pride in what we do, and what we can do."
But speaking of football stadiums, AEG and the convention center....what about some downtown observers' speculation that the cash-strapped city will offer to just sell the whole convention center to AEG, rather than go through with the proposal that's currently being discussed?
Is that on the table? That's what we asked Miguel Santana, City Administrative Officer, who also was at last night's event. Santana looked pretty skeptical. Selling the convention center is "very unlikely given the huge debt service," he said. "I haven't heard anyone from the Mayor's office or the City Council [suggest the idea]."
(And would AEG even want the convention center?)
And finally: An observer was heard wondering why hobos were dancing on the stage at last night's event. (Hey, that's blight--bring in the CRA!) In fact, the dancers were part of a special preview of Cirque du Soleil's "Iris," which will open at the Kodak Theater later this year. The hobos were just the warm-up: The mini performance ended with a woman in a sheeny bodysuit climbing into a giant Slinky, an act which drew lots of applause from the audience. An act involving someone getting out of a difficult situation? Welcome to LA, Brown! And you can watch his 10-minute speech to Chamber members at Neon Tommy.