Monday, January 24, 2011

Perception and Some More Comments

After pondering on the appointment of Ms. Elise Swanson as Deputy Chief of Staff to Councilwoman Janice Hahn, I have formed some early opinions about the matter.

Ms. Swanson began her current position with Ms. Hahn's staff at the beginning of this year.

As I am moderately affected by asperger's syndrome, I can place into my own vision many things as if they were right in front of me.

I 'saw' a newspaper headline, actually more than one that seems to be working for me at this time.

"Freshman Congressman appoints K Street lobbyist to a key staff position" This doesn't sit well with me at all and I feel it doesn't sit well with many others, either.

"Termed out Councilwoman appoints former Vice President of condominium project located in her District, to key staff position"


Ms. Swanson, after leaving the staff of Councilwoman Hahn, spent about five years aggressively supporting, leading, and lobbying for a change of zoning on a site within the Councilwoman's District.

Now I have read what I feel is a promise that Ms. Swanson would not be working on Ponte Vista at San Pedro issues. However, as Vice President of Ponte Vista at San Pedro, it was Ms. Swanson's job to do her best to have the zoning changed at the site to allow for "2,300" condominiums, or fewer numbers of condominiums being approved for entitlements on the site in northwest San Pedro.

I sent out an informational Email, with a few short comments, to a large number of community members, about Ms. Swanson's recent appointment.

I have received a surprising number of replies, both individually back to me and as a "reply all" to the original Email I sent out.

"Conflict of interest" has so far been viewed by me in the majority of the replies I have received.

I am not too sure that there really is a conflict of interest at this point, but I can certainly consider there could be.


I think from here on our, even though Ms. Hahn and all of her representatives might state that Ms. Swanson's appointment would mean nothing regarding Ms. Hahn's responsibilities regarding Ponte Vista, it can very well be perceived by many that just having a former Vice President of an operation that seeks to have entitlements granted for building within Ms. Hahn's District COULD smack at a potential conflict of interest, I feel.

The appointment also make it more difficult, I believe, for Ms. Hahn to get beyond having problems with her vote on the City Council on any and all matters related to Ponte Vista and the entitlement sought for that site.

I do not doubt the abilities Ms. Swanson brings to the position as Deputy Chief of Staff. I doubt that it was a wise and truly thought out appointment by Ms. Hahn.

Ms. Swanson was an active, concerned, and remarkable representative on the Western Avenue Task Force. She was a strong force when working for Bob Bisno.

During "The Bob Years" as I refer to the period of time when Bob Bisno first brought the Ponte Vista at San Pedro Project to northwest San Pedro and up until he was sent away, Ms. Swanson, myself, and many others were participants in activities that brought about probably the most divisive period in our community's history.

I know none of us want to go back and do any of that in the future, while we are all still considering whether or what entitlements would be allowed on Ponte Vista's 61.53 acres.


Now that Ms. Swanson is a key member of Ms. Hahn's staff, how might that really affect the Councilwoman's position now and into the future? is there enough perception of trust for the Councilwoman's position?

It is reasonable to equate part of Ms. Swanson's former position as a lobbyist for a particular development within Ms. Hahn's sphere of influence.

I have been under the impression that there is a growing call for former lobbyists not being hired to the staffs of elected representatives and that lobbyists who represented interests within the representative's voting area, should not be hired.

In the history of dealing with Ponte Vista at San Pedro issues I learned that when a development or project is backed by the Council person where the project or development is located, it usually gains approval by the majority of the City Council.

Similarly, when the Council person whose District contains a development or project that Council person does not support, the majority of the City Council will not support the project or development. This has been true in the vast majority of cases but it is not set in stone and some projects and developments have been approved without the support of the Council member in whose District it is located.

We have been told that Ms. Hahn is not supportive of having entitlements granted for the 1,135 units the current developer is asking for.

We don't yet know the number of units Ms. Hahn might agree to.

At this point I feel that as long as Ms. Swanson remains on Ms. Hahn's staff, Ms. Hahn must recuse herself from all official debate, voting, or most other things associated with the site Ms. Swanson has been a Vice President of, for about five years.

There will be a strong and probably growing call for the site to remain with its current zoning. That zoning already allows for the construction of up to 429-Single Family, detached housing on lots of not less than 5,000 square feet. (This is commonly known as R-1 or R 1)

There would be no conflict of interest concerns or perception issues relating to Councilwoman Hahn and her appointment of Ms. Swanson if Ms. Hahn states that she supports keeping the site with its current zoning and there being no vote coming before the Los Angeles City Council.

*NOTE. I have stated and written that I can live with not more than 831 total units being constructed at the site. That is many more units than R 1 allows.

I do not doubt that Ms. Swans is qualified to be a Deputy Chief of Staff to any L.A. City Council member other than Ms. Hahn.

If you are going to use a former paid lobbyist as a key member of your staff, you should not appoint a lobbyist to your staff that worked for years lobbying for something in your own District.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ha, some things never change.