It’s getting harder every day to tell the players in L.A.’s drama apart — maybe they should wear numbered jerseys at least while they mourn the loss of another National Football League franchise, an unnamed one that joins the Rams and Raiders in the city’s scrap heap.
Take Michael Hiltzik, the LA Times politically correct business columnist who on Sunday fell prostrate before right-wing extremist billionaire Phil Anschutz in idolizing how he called the NFL’s “bluff” and is the greedy league’s “worst nightmare: a potentialy team owner who can call his own shots.”
I guess all the other billionaire owners are just gutless lackeys but not Phil who spent up to $55 million to bribe and buy local and state officials, unions and poverty pimps to get $2 billion in entitlements for Farmer’s Field but is “not certain that pro football would be an unalloyed plus for his enterprise,” not anyway on “our campus” as if he owned all of downtown and not just the pieces City Hall bestowed up him.
Amazingly, Hiltzik finally has come to the conclusion that Anschutz has “done city officials the favor of demonstrating this project always amounted to a pig in a poke; he’s even showing them the ‘oink.’ ” Anschutz is certainly showing them something but it’s not an oink.
Even more incredibly, Jim Newton, the Times’ star editorial columnist, suddenly noticed the real pig in the AEG story was Tim Leiweke who owned City Hall so completely he got officials to write into the Farmer’s Field contract a provision that required him to be AEG’s chief executive or it could be killed by the city.
“Leiweke got his projects done by making sure that Los Angeles’ many interests all got something out of them. That wasn’t always pretty, and Leiweke sometimes resembled a ward boss. Labor got union jobs; community groups got parks or special treats; certain interests got donations to charity or programs for the homeless; politicians, of course, got political contributions.”
Citing leftist/labor leader Madeline Janis and downtown developers’ frontwoman Carol Schatz support for Leiweke’s giving them what they wanted, Newton turns from critic to admirer despite finding Anschutz’s Staples Center/LA Live “campus” something that is “gaudy and anonymous, a collection of chain stores and restaurants you could find in Kansas City just as easily as here.”
But in his morally equivocated world, it turns out bribery is a good thing in Leiweke’s case “he got things done . . . The ability to deliver made Leiweke powerful. Some people didn’t like it — and sometimes for good reason. But he proved that with the right leverage and the right friends, big things could get done in Los Angeles.”
In other words, the ends justify the means because the soulless space Leiweke developed created some jobs and economic activity and replaced “a few scruffy buildings and empty lots” as if strong leadership couldn’t have insisted on something far more organic and interesting with longer-term impact for the health and wealth of the community.
Strong leadership was the problem as the statements from top two cheerleaders for this rotten deal gone nowhere, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and downtown Councilwoman Jan Perry, both of them now quite happy to rebuild the Convention Center without a football stadium.
The mayor who had insisted the AEG contract was “iron-clad” now is looking for a way out as if had not completely screwed up the deal.
Writing to woebegone City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana who is required to do the bidding of the people like the mayor that Leiweke bought, the mayor said:
“We are investing over $4 billion into LAX to finally give L.A. the welcome mat to the world it deserves: World class destinations and attractions. A modernized Los Angeles Convention Center with an expanded contiguous floor space will help us book more and larger conventions.”
Added Perry: “Our first priority as a city is to make our Convention Center a leader by modernizing our facilities and increasing exhibition space. We want to make Los Angeles competitive nationwide, attracting more convention business, tourism, and the investment that comes with it. The bottom line is we need to have a plan in place with or without an NFL team.”
So we don’t have a plan. We don’t have leadership. We don’t even have Leiweke the Fixer anymore.
All we have is Miguel Santana. So fix it, Miguel, or you’re out. Every political scandal needs a fall guy and I’m afraid you’re it.