To stand any chance at all in getting 40,000 valid signatures and winning a majority at the ballot box, the issue would have to be a truly terrible council decision that is being challenged.
That is the case with the Greek Theatre, a dirty back-room deal that allowed the Nederlander Corp. to extend its lease two years early without competitive bidding after milking the city for 25 years. Nederlander walked away with $1 million or so a year in profits while the city netted nothing from the lease on the historic Griffith Park theater.
For years, the 69-year-old outdoor concert venue has fallen into disrepair, lagged behind newer theaters in amenities for patrons and as an extension because of the condition or the operator's lack of drawing power failed to attract top acts.
The Recreation and Parks Department and the City Council went along with this disgrace because the concessionaires were part of the insider crowd down at City Hall.
Suddenly, when other concert operators, notably the House of Blues, got interested in taking over the Greek, Nederlander was willing to up the ante to the city tenfold, take over maintenance costs and make substantial improvements.
The cover story was that next year's 70th anniversary was historically important, and major improvements would allow for a season-long gala celebration. Despite the city's longtime largesse, Nederlander would only agree to make the improvements if it got a five-year extension.
With all that in mind, the council, led by President John Ferraro, finagled the rules to prevent competitive bidding for the operating contract.
Personal relationships and arm-twisting politics trumped the procedures that are supposed to guide the council to make decisions based on what's best for the city.
Instead of prudently finding a solution that would have gotten the city the most money by competitive bidding and avoided making another sweetheart deal with the Nederlanders, the council rolled over to the insiders.
Surprisingly, House of Blues officials didn't just roll over like everyone else in town. The company decided to gather signatures on a referendum and the ultimate outsiders in Los Angeles the voting and taxpaying public would decide the issue.
House of Blues has a personal motivation the profit motive for pursuing this fight.
And the public, too, has a personal motivesending a message to the downtown power structure that we're not going to put up with their dirty deals any more.
Let them know this: We'll see you in court or we'll see you at the ballot box unless you clean up City Hall.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Dec 29, 1999|
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